Before this season, no one gave the Calgary Roughnecks much chance to be where they are right now.
They traded away two offensive stalwarts in Josh Sanderson and Tracey Kelusky and were counting on younger players at key positions.
Then the season started and financial problems dogged the organization, putting the players in a position where they weren’t getting paid.
Through it all, they kept winning.
And thanks to a Boston Blazers 16-9 victory over the Buffalo Bandits Saturday night, the Roughnecks (11-5) clinched the first overall seed in the National Lacrosse League.
If the Riggers don’t win the Champion’s Cup this season, it will be because someone came into the Saddledome and earned a victory.
“We may have not ended the way we wanted to but sometimes you get a little help,” said Riggers captain Andrew McBride, who sat out Friday’s 11-7 loss to the Colorado Mammoth in Denver.
“It bodes well. We’re ready for a raucous crowd at the Dome (April 30 when they open against the Mammoth). We’re comfortable with our game-day routine here.
“We know what it takes to win there. The guys are pumped. (First overall) is a nice thing to have in our back pocket.
“We know our job isn’t done. I’ve been on teams with great regular seasons and not done anything in the playoffs. I’ve been on playoff runs when we didn’t have this type of record.
“Maybe a loss like that wasn’t that bad a thing. It was a good reminder that you need you best effort or else it will be a short run.”
The Riggers may have backed into the post-season but they didn’t exactly put their top lineup on the floor Friday.
Along with McBride (knee), forward Jeff Shattler sat with an undisclosed injury, while defender Scott Carnegie missed to write his firefighter’s exam here in Calgary.
Forward Dane Dobbie also didn’t make the trip to Denver after putting his passport through the wash and not being allowed to fly out of his home in Vancouver.
All four players will be back for the opening round of the playoffs, but the Riggers need to fix a few things before then.
In the final two games of the season against the Mammoth, the Riggers gave Colorado 19 powerplays, and they had trouble solving Mammoth goalie Chris Levis consistently.
“We have to be more disciplined,” said Riggers head coach Dave Pym. “We can’t take those penalties 180 feet from our net. It has to change for the playoffs.”
If the Roughnecks were scoreboard watching Saturday night, they were watching familiar faces.
It was Sanderson’s Blazers that beat Keluskey’s Bandits to give the Riggers the top seed.
The Blazers (10-5) can equal the Roughnecks mark but Calgary won the season series by taking the season opener at the Dome.
“This is phenomenal for the guys in the room,” Pym said. “For all the challenges they have faced this year, it’s an accomplishment they can reflect on and be proud of.
“That record in this league is great.”