Riggers revel in victory

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:29 AM ET

The Champion's Cup celebration moved to Okotoks yesterday, back where the Calgary Roughnecks began so many years ago.

On the ranch of a minority owner, the team gathered to toast a successful National Lacrosse League season, which was capped Friday night when the Riggers beat the New York Titans 12-10 for their second league title.

The party hardly stopped from the previous night, but the team will be forced to part ways for the summer today.

Unlike the previous four seasons, they do so as champs, but that doesn't mean there weren't a few reflective moments amongst their hooting and hollering.

"It is emotional," said head coach Troy Cordingley. "I've seen these guys every weekend for six months.

"As a coaching staff, we pushed them to the limit, and they stepped up and delivered. That's what is most rewarding for me -- just to see how well these guys worked together.

"They were the best from the beginning until the end, and that's real hard to do."

The majority of the players are primed to return for a run at a second straight title, with a few exceptions, of course.

Veteran forward Curt Malawsky, who turned 39 last week, will likely retire on top after finally winning a Champion's Cup in his fifth trip to the big game. The same goes for forward Kyle Goundrey.

Barring day-job changes or other surprise retirements, the core group that went 12-4 in the regular season and 3-0 in the playoffs will be at training camp in December.

Captain Tracey Kelusky returned to form with one of the best seasons of his career following an injury plagued campaign.

Original Riggers member Kaleb Toth led the team offensively in the Champion's Cup, scoring a goal and five assists.

And the lefty duo of Josh Sanderson and Dane Dobbie could be a deadly combination for years to come.

Andrew Mc-Bride, Mike Carnegie and Jeff Moleski have emerged as defender-of-the-year candidates, while veteran Bruce Codd is a stable force on the back end.

Another breakout year not to be overlooked was the one enjoyed by goalie Matt King, who went from career backup to championship-calibre starter this season.

The rest of the Roughnecks deserve due credit in the title grab, as well.

The team presented the coaching staff with awards yesterday for their season in which Cordingley was named NLL head coach of the year.

Cordingley, defensive coach Terry Sanderson and offensive coach Dave Pym were all given glass trophies recognizing their dedication to the team, and that suited Cordingley fine.

When he won the award, he argued it should have gone to the staff and not just to him.

It was the most emotional part of a great long weekend.

"Now, we're going to say goodbye and say 'See you next year,' " said majority owner/president/GM Brad Banister.

"Most of the guys will be back. We only have a couple of question marks. I would like to keep everybody, but you are always trying to get better. But this is a pretty unique group. They respected each other's opinions and became such a tight-knit group."

With three home playoff games and a championship team on the floor, the Riggers are on solid ground.

The same can't be said of the NLL, which has three teams, including the Titans, on shaky footing. The Portland LumberJax and the San Jose Stealth are looking for new homes, as are the Titans. All three clubs could fold, and the talent dispersal would only make it tougher for the Riggers to remain on top.

"If we drop under 12, every team will get that much better," Cordingley said. "That's what makes this league so tight. Every team has real good talent. And ours will be awfully tough to crack this lineup next year."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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