Roughnecks barely remember Dome

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:03 PM ET

The last time the Calgary Roughnecks played a home game, the world was such a different place.

Egypt was still ruled by Mubarak, the Green Bay Packers had yet to win the Super Bowl and Charlie Sheen was still considered somewhat sane.

And when the Riggers host the Edmonton Rush Saturday at the Saddledome (7:30 p.m., nll.com), the game will be a relief after seven weeks of financial turmoil surrounding the cash-strapped team.

“I’m glad I still know the directions to the Dome,” said Riggers captain Andrew McBride with a laugh. “It feels like we haven’t been there in a while.”

After the Roughnecks beat the Rush 12-11 in overtime Jan. 29 at the Dome, they were 4-2 and feeling pretty good about themselves.

Since then, owner Brad Banister ran into a serious cash shortage and made a public plea for support, starting a ‘Save our Roughnecks’ campaign.

Consider all that’s taken place since the last home game, even outside of the money trouble:

• Defender Devan Wray had a life-threatening infection that landed him in the hospital for 10 days, but he’s already returned to action, playing Sunday in a win over Washington.

• Three players — McBride, Scott Ranger and Jeff Shattler — took part in the NLL all-star game, which came on one of the team’s two bye weeks.

• The Riggers (7-3) went 3-1 on the road swing, improving their place on top of the West Division and clinching a playoff berth for the ninth straight season.

• Faceoff specialist Geoff Snider suffered an injury Feb. 20 at Edmonton, missed the all-star game and two regular-season contests, but he should return Saturday to face the Rush.

• Nolan Heavenor, who was injured in the season-opener, has recovered after missing two and a half months with a high-ankle sprain.

• Transition star Jeff Shattler was moved to play offence full-time and has 25 points in the last three games.

“It feels like a new season,” Shattler said about returning to the Dome. “This feels like a home-opener. It will be great and hopefully we have a lot of support.

“To be away for that long and to do as well as we have done is awesome. People counted us out before the season started. Some teams counted us out and that was their downfall. We’re playing amazing right now.”

The opponent Saturday night is quite a bit different than the last time Calgary fans saw them.

The Rush have made plenty of moves trying to find the right formula for success, as their season has unravelled thanks, in large part, to losing three times to the Riggers.

“They made a lot of trades,” Shattler said of the Rush, which will have five new players in the lineup from the meeting Jan. 29.

“But it doesn’t matter what team is out there against us. We respect each team that is playing us. It’s a good point for us. We treat each team like it’s a playoff game.”

The Riggers will finish out the campaign with four home dates on consecutive weekends, with two road outings to finish up.

Now that Calgary can see its team in person again, the players are hoping what they do on the floor overshadows the financial crisis.

“It’s been a tumultuous season,” McBride said. “But it’s a positive that we’re coming to the rink focused and doing it with a chip on our shoulder knowing we need wins to make things a bit better.

“We hope now our play erases some of the negative stuff in the media and gets us back feeling positive.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ianbusby57


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