Roughnecks sniper shines at both ends

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

CALGARY -- They say the best defence is a good offence.

For the Calgary Roughnecks, their best offensive weapon in recent weeks happens to be a converted defender.

“I’m honoured if anybody thinks that I’m a goal-scorer in this league,” shrugged emerging scoring ace Jeff Shattler.

The numbers are proving it.

Heading into Sunday’s showdown with the homestanding Washington Stealth in Everett (6 p.m., nll.com), Shattler leads the Roughnecks with 41 points in nine games, including 17 goals. The speedy left-hander is red-hot, too, having registered back-to-back eight-point outings.

In the process, he’s also forced the Riggers coaching staff to shuffle the lineup.

“He’s been phenomenal. Come hell or high water, I’m going to find a way to keep him playing pure offence,” said Riggers head coach Dave Pym. “He’s great in transition and he does a lot of great things, but every time he plays straight offence, he puts up multiple points. If I can get production out of him like this, I would be insane not to keep him there.”

Shattler was mostly on defensive duty the last time the Roughnecks and Stealth met, a 19-14 shellacking at the Saddledome he and his teammates would sooner forget.

On Sunday, he’ll be one of the guys responsible for filling the net at the other end of the floor.

With a victory, the Roughnecks (6-3) would win the season series against the Stealth (5-5) and own a crucial tiebreaker as they try to lock up top spot in the West Division standings.

“My dad taught me to play every position because you never know where you’re going to be needed,” Shattler said. “I always believed that if you can play every position, you’re more valuable to your team. I don’t really care where I’m put. As long as I get to go out there and help my team win, that’s all that matters.”

Although Shattler has already tied his career-high for goals and is on pace for his best campaign in almost every statistical category, he won’t be the only sniper on the floor Sunday.

Prior to Saturday’s National Lacrosse League action, former Riggers sharpshooter and current Stealth star Lewis Ratcliff was sitting atop the point-production charts with 23 goals and 38 helpers in 10 appearances.

Rhys Duch is averaging almost three goals per game for the NLL’s most potent offence, while Luke Wiles and Jeff Zywicki are also capable of scoring in bunches.

Shattler has logged enough minutes on defence to develop a lot of respect for the Stealth attack, but he figures the Riggers might’ve made them look good during that lopsided loss in late January.

“That was the worst game we’ve played all year, so we’ve got a lot to prove to ourselves and to Calgary that we are a contender and we are going to stay on top,” Shattler said. “I know I haven’t forgotten what happened last game, and I know our team is going to pull this one out.

“I think we’re playing these guys at the right time. I think we’re going to be a hard team to beat from this game until the end of this season, and I really believe we’ll be able to pull this one out.”


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