Roughnecks prospects enjoying best seat in house

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

It won't be the first time Cochrane's Joel Henry has showed up at the Saddledome to root for the Calgary Roughnecks in a Champions' Cup final.

This time, though, he won't have to pay for his seat.

Henry, one of three aspiring pros currently stashed on the Riggers' practice roster, was sitting in the stands when Tracey Kelusky & Co. won a National Lacrosse League title in 2004.

"It was nuts. There wasn't an empty seat in the Saddledome," Henry said. "It was pretty cool to see them win it, especially at home, and with everybody going nuts in the crowd. It was quite the experience. Hopefully, we can get that again this weekend."

The Roughnecks will try to raise a second NLL championship banner to the rafters Friday, when they host the New York Titans in the winner-take-all title fight.

Joe Vetere, a Calgary product and the Riggers' second-round pick in September's draft, was also sitting with the paying public when the club captured the NLL crown five seasons ago. The Roughnecks' original ball-boy, Vetere dashed onto the turf for the celebration and even appears in the championship photo.

Back then, he listed Kelusky and Kaleb Toth among his idols.

Now, they're his teammates.

"I worked as hard as anybody and to be a part of it, to be sitting next to those guys when they win it, is going to be amazing -- hopefully, if we can pull it off," Vetere said. "Even though it was on the practice roster, I worked hard and I tried to make every one of those players on the floor better by pushing them and motivating them."

Whatever the Roughnecks are using for motivation, it seems to be working. After posting a franchise-record 12-4 mark in the regular season, the Riggers rolled over the Colorado Mammoth in a West Division semifinal and thumped the San Jose Stealth last weekend to advance to the final.

Netminder Matt King established a new NLL record in the Riggers' 17-5 shellacking of the Stealth, keeping the visitors off the scoreboard for 45 minutes, 24 seconds.

Henry, a fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft, knew the Roughnecks would field a contender, but even he didn't expect to see his squad dismantle their first two playoff opponents.

"The way Kinger has been playing, our captain Tracey and Shooter (Josh Sanderson), all those guys ... it's unbelievable," Henry said. "To put up two dominating wins like that is something else, especially in this league, where everything can be so tight."


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