January 28, 2011
Riggers ready for rival Rush
By IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency
CALGARY - In the span of 27 hours, the Calgary Roughnecks can basically crush the Rush.
Not that the Riggers would want to see their Alberta colleagues in the National Lacrosse League suffer much. The two franchises are linked in growing the sport in this province.
However, when it comes to the on-floor competition, the Roughnecks can put the Edmonton Rush in a deep dark hole to start the 2011 season.
If the Roughnecks sweep a home-and-home starting Friday at Rexall Place (7 p.m., nll.com), then the Rush would be stuck at 0-5 while their southern neighbours would be flying high at 4-2.
"Our team doesn't want to focus on that because it's a trap statement," said Riggers captain Andrew McBride.
"Going on the road for three games is a difficult task to deal with, but you can still fight back from it. We're going to be coming out knowing they are desperate.
"They are well-coached and if we slack off we're going to have trouble. It's a good situation to be in. After a stinker of a game last week and a tough game for them, it's a perfect meeting of the Alberta rivals."
It's not as if the Riggers head to Edmonton with any momentum. Coming off a 19-14 whipping at the hands of the Washington Stealth, they need a win to get back some of their early-season mojo.
This is the home-opener for the Rush, who lost road games to Toronto, Boston and Minnesota over the past three weeks, and that franchise needs some good news if it hopes to take a step forward in the passionate sports market.
The future isn't exactly rosy for the Riggers either. Owner Brad Banister has his team up for sale and so far the only interest is coming from outside the city.
While inquiries have come from places such as New York, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Detroit, Banister would prefer to keep the team in Calgary where 10 years of quality product has been put on the floor.
The same quality wasn't always there in Edmonton, although the Rush have won the latest Battle of Alberta -- an 11-7 win in last season's playoffs.
That alone makes this a crucial weekend for the Riggers.
"I remember every loss like it was yesterday," said head coach Dave Pym. "It's another motivating factor for me, and hopefully four our guys too."
The Rush have struggled offensively to start the season with just 22 goals in three games, so they made a drastic move this week.
In getting veteran forward Scott Evans from the Rochester Knighthawks, the Rush shipped out solid defender Rory Glaves.
Roughnecks defender Geoff Snider has played with and against Evans and said the rugged righty will make a difference in the Rush lineup.
"He's going to bring passion, grit and fire," Snider said. "When you play defence against the guy, he's like an amoeba. You can't pick a corner on him and put too much pressure of he's slip through the other side.
"You have to respect him because he will crash the net. He has great hands and he scores goals. If we don't respect him, he will make us pay. He is willing to take a beating.
"It's great for Edmonton. They get a prolific goal scorer and an experienced player in this league."
Although the Riggers will insert veteran Devan Wray into their lineup for the first time this season, they may be without defender Jeff Shattler, who is suffering from food poisoning and didn't make the trip to Edmonton Thursday evening. Shattler is expected to drive up Friday afternoon.
Saturday's meeting is the last time the Riggers will play in Calgary before March 19 -- a span of 49 days and four road outings -- making a victory crucial.
"When you don't play for 40-some days, you need to keep the fans interested," McBride said. "The fans were cheering us on when we lost (last week) so it would be a good idea to leave a good taste in their mouths so they don't forget about us."