Territorial battle for Roughnecks

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:06 PM ET

It was a low point in the history of the Edmonton Rush, but a high one in the Battle of Alberta.

When the Calgary Roughnecks got up 14-3 at half time in Rexall Place March 13, 2009, the Rush came out swinging after the break — literally.

As the ball dropped for the faceoff, the Rush started dropping haymakers on the Riggers players.

The line brawl meant the five Rush players — Jimmy Quinlan, Ryan McNish, Jamie Floris, Shayne Bennett and Chris McElroy — were booted and the result was a

22-10 loss.

“We couldn’t get anything going and we were at the point where we were willing to try anything,” said Quinlan in remembering the loss.

“You can only recall a handful of games in your career and that one is pretty vivid as being one of the more embarrassing ones the Rush ever suffered.

“Being down as far as we were at the end of the half and not being able to create any sort of momentum, it was all of our frustrations boiling over.

“It was probably not the best way to react. We did and it’s behind us now.”

In the five-year history of the Rush-Riggers rivalry, that was the most lopsided defeat, and it was a game that featured the most fights.

The Roughnecks on the floor at the time — Devan Wray, Scott Carnegie, Jeff Shattler, Mike Kilby and Kyle Couling — were taken a bit by surprise.

Who could blame them?

Never before had the Battle of Alberta been so heated in lacrosse.

“We probably should have seen it coming,” Shattler said. “The score was out of control and we kept going at them.

“Any coach would send out a couple players to fight if you are getting beat that bad. It happens.”

Don’t expect anything like that Saturday when the Riggers host the Rush in the first round of the National Lacrosse League playoffs.

Since then, the two teams have played four times and only once was the winning difference more than one goal.

You could say it was the start of some hatred between the sides, but Shattler doesn’t blame them for that reaction.

“If a team beat me by that much and were chirping about it, I would be ticked off too,” Shattler said.

“We never let up. We kept going after them. Tensions get real high when you are getting beat by that much.

“I couldn’t tell you what happened. Their goalie let in a couple of soft ones early and away we went.”

During this off-season, the Rush changed the majority of their core.

Coming off a 6-10 campaign, the Rush switched it around and were 10-6 this season.

“There are only a handful of players still here,” said McNish. “The atmosphere there was so horrible and we were playing so badly we thought we have to do something to entertain our fans. Whether you agree or not, people like watching fights. That was our mentality.

“It was last year and it seems like so long ago compared with the strides we made and how far the organization has come.”

No matter the outcome of that game, the Rush seemed to be galvanized by the brawl.

The next time the Riggers visited — for a 14-13 win April 11, 2009 — there was no blowout, and no fights.

“Heading into the post-season, it was must-win for them and we could have lost, and it was one of the best games I’ve been part of in this league,” said Rigger Tracey Kelusky.

“It was intense and we had our hands full. I expect the same thing again.”


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