Riggers in championship rematch

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:54 PM ET

There’s no need to remind the Orlando Titans which squad owns the National Lacrosse League crown.

They were, after all, in attendance when the Calgary Roughnecks hoisted the trophy.

“You always remember stuff like that,” said Roughnecks defender Mike Kilby. “We just have to be ready for whatever they throw at us. We know they’re going to be up for it, especially after losing the championship game.”

The Riggers are making their first sojourn to sun-soaked Florida for Saturday’s showdown with the Titans, a rematch of last year’s Champion’s Cup clash — a 12-10 triumph for the hosts in front of a raucous Saddledome crowd.

While the Titans are likely still stinging from that setback, the Roughnecks are simply shooting to make amends for a defeat that’s much more fresh in their minds.

The Riggers wasted a six-goal performance from captain Tracey Kelusky last Saturday and gassed a late lead in a 12-11 loss to the visiting Washington Stealth, falling to 5-4 on the season and four points off the pace in the West Division.

“I’m sure (the Titans) circled this one on the calendar. We took something away from them in the championship,” said Roughnecks star Josh Sanderson. “But I think there’s going to be some hunger on our side, too, after that loss last weekend.”

While the Riggers are the defending champions, it’s the Titans — formerly of New York — that have established themselves as an early frontrunner this season.

They’ve posted back-to-back victories despite an injury to star sniper Casey Powell and have moved atop the East Division standings with a 6-3 mark.

Although he’s still seeking his first victory against the crew from Calgary, Titans goalie Matt Vinc ranks among the stingiest stoppers in the game.

“They’re one of, if not the upper-echelon team in the league right now,” said Riggers bench boss Dave Pym. “We’re approaching it as though we’re playing one of the best quality teams in the league right now.

“We’re going to prepare our guys to match the talents that we’re playing.”

The Roughnecks would love to match their success from last spring, but they’ll need to lock up a playoff spot first.

Heading into Saturday’s clash, Pym’s posse is clinging to third spot in the West Division standings. They’re only four points behind the division-leading Stealth (7-3) with a game in hand, but also have the fourth-place Minnesota Swarm (4-5) hot on their heels for the final post-season berth in the West.

They’ll need to leapfrog the Stealth or Edmonton Rush (6-3) for the right to host a home playoff game.

“We just need to be focused on the game at hand and nothing else,” Kilby said. “If you start worrying about your record and worrying about things that are out of your control, then you start to forget about the little things that you need to do during the game.

“Everybody talks about, but I think the main thing is you need to turn that around and just focus on what we need to do to win this next game.”

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos