Top dog on best D shut out

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The best defence in the National Lacrosse League doesn't have the top defender.

At least according to the regular-season awards which were handed out yesterday.The Calgary Roughnecks had a league-low 167 goals-against in 16 games, but the top defender award went to the Buffalo Bandits' Billy Dee Smith.

This comes as no surprise to the Riggers, who have been shut out of league-wide recognition most of the year except when Troy Cordingley won head coach of the year last week.

"No knock to Billy Dee Smith, because we didn't see him this year, but I'm really disappointed for Jeff Moleski," said Riggers assistant captain Andrew McBride.

"I don't know what more you could possibly want from a defender. He led us all year. He had 95 loose balls, scored huge goals for us, had great offensive numbers but also shut down the top guys on opposing teams all year.

"I don't know how his qualifications and what he has done can't get defender of the year. Jeff has earned the respect of every guy on this team. He's such an integral part of our team."

Maybe the problem for the Riggers was vote splitting.

McBride, Moleski, Bruce Codd and Mike Carnegie all had outstanding years for the Roughnecks and arguments could be made for all of them.

They have 12 players who have rotated into the lineup and helped the team become the toughest to score against in the NLL. It's a huge reason they are hosting the Champion's Cup Friday against the New York Titans.

"Who do you give it to on our team? There are a few guys to choose from," said veteran Devan Wray, who wasn't surprised about getting snubbed for defender, transition and goaltender of the year.

"We're used to it at this point in the season. Those sorts of awards are nice, but they don't mean anything. Our focus is on one thing all season long -- winning a championship."

Portland LumberJax star Brodie Merrill was named transition player of the year, while the Bandits' Ken Montour is the top goalie.

There is no arguing Merrill is deserving because of his 216 loose balls and career-high 33 assists.

Montour had the league's best goals-against average (9.57) and save percentage (.813), so he was the favourite in that category.

As the league awards continue today, the Riggers will likely not get any more recognition. The rookie of the year and all-rookie teams will be announced today, and the Riggers didn't have a freshman who contributed.

Their depth means they will likely not have the league MVP, which will be given out Thursday, but they should get someone on the all-pro teams named tomorrow.

"We're taking this as a motivational tool," McBride said. "It was nice to see Troy get his award, but at the same time, I think we've earned more respect.

"We don't care about it ... but we use it as fuel to say people overlook this team. I know it's motivation for every player on this team. We want to see guys who are deserving to get recognized."

Moleski isn't upset about not receiving an award.

"I'm a pretty humble guy I would like to think. It would have been nice, but the biggest thing for me is winning a championship," Moleski said.

"From the start of the year, we just said we're a bunch of blue-collar guys. We just go out and play hard to get the win. That's the big thing for us."


Photos