May 5, 2011
Roughnecks opponent all businessEx-Rigger sniper in town to 'win' playoff game — then visit old haunts
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Former Roughnecks sniper Lewis Ratcliff has a short list of things to do when he comes back to town this weekend.
“Win,” said the Washington Stealth forward, who faces his former team in the playoffs for the first time Saturday night in the NLL Western Final.
“And then go to the Roadhouse.”
Ex-teammate Kaleb Toth — still teammates with Ratcliff over summers as members of the WLA’s Senior A Nanaimo Timbermen — might join his friend for a drink after his Riggers host the battle at the Saddledome, but the two have very different ideas of who will be celebrating victory.
And those post-playoff game plans will be made spur-of-the-moment, because they have no plans to talk to each other in the days leading into the most important game of their seasons so far.
“We keep it strictly business,” said Toth. “Lewis is a good buddy of mine, but we both have the same goal — to win the game on Saturday. We’re both gonna do what it takes.
“We might say hi after the game, but before the game and during the game, we’re enemies.”
Enemies very familiar with each other and what they can do on the floor.
Ratcliff scored 50 goals and a career-high 104 points in his last full season with the Roughnecks in 2007 before a trade to the Toronto Rock the following March led to his lowest offensive numbers since his rookie year.
The now 30-year-old returned to his high-scoring ways when a blockbuster deal sent him to Everett to join the Stealth.
He paced Washington to its first Champion’s Cup and earned MVP honours with five goals and an assist after a 41-goal, 97-point regular-season.
“For me, it comes down to confidence,” said Ratcliff. “Toronto was a tough year. We didn’t have the squad we had in Calgary or in Washington now. It was a poor season overall for everyone.
“I learned from that.”
He’s also learned that coming back to Calgary isn’t a big deal anymore.
“It’s always fun to go back to Calgary and to play against the guys I played with so long,” Ratcliff said. “But it’s past the point of going back in and it being a real huge deal. The first time back was awesome and pretty exciting. To say it’s just another game is not true, but to say it’s something I really think about isn’t true, either.
“It’s still just a huge game for Washington, and a must-win.”
The Stealth beat the Roughnecks 19-14 in their only visit to the Saddledome this season, but dropped both home contests to the Riggers 13-11 and 17-13.
“We played in a couple of high-scoring games with them,” Ratcliff said. “I don’t expect them to be that high (Saturday).”
Not the way the Roughnecks defence has been playing. But Ratcliff also knows his defenders have their work cut out for them against Toth and the Riggers forwards.
“To say their defence is their strong point takes away from their pretty good offence,” said Ratcliff. “They’re a dangerous team.”
The danger will only last a few hours. Then the former teammates can be pals again.
“Lacrosse guys are pretty good at leaving what happens on the floor on the floor. I’ve seen plenty of guys that get in a fight during the game having a beer after,” said Ratcliff. “Everything’s left aside.
“It’ll be nice to catch up with them — hopefully after a Washington win.”