Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Roughnecks’ 2007 season offered hope that wasn’t meant to be

The mallards were all lined up. Then destiny was shot out of the air with barely a quack.

Leading into the final weekend of the National Lacrosse League, the Calgary Roughnecks had to take care of their own business simultaneous to other teams giving them a leg up. It was one of those “make the playoffs if” scenarios. Make the playoffs if the ‘Necks beat either Arizona or Edmonton on the road. Host a playoff game if Calgary won both games and if Arizona lost their contest with Minnesota.

Everything fell into place. The Roughnecks finished second in the NLL West Division and lost to Arizona in the quarterfinal. Then the “if” game went south.

If Calgary beat the Sting and San Jose beat Colorado, Calgary would host the semi-final. If Rochester won the East, the Roughnecks would also end up hosting the Champion’s Cup, as the Knighthawks would be bumped from their arena in lieu of the circus.

San Jose did beat the Mammoth; it’s too soon at the time of this submission to know if Rochester can reach the final, but the ‘Necks failed to hold up their end of the deal to make it all come together.

“It’s disappointing,” goaltender Ryan Avery expressed solemnly. “Anytime you don’t win the championship, it’s disappointing.”

Avery and Andrew Leyshon shared netminding duties in the quarterfinal game with Arizona.

Jeff Dowling, who took over head coaching duties from Chris Hall at mid-season, was disappointed that Avery gave up six goals on 15 shots.

“On the sixth goal, I thought we needed to put Andrew in to see if we could spark the team.”

It did. It was 8-6 at the half and 8-8 early in the third. Then the Sting chalked up a couple of quick goals to take the lead and never looked back. Avery went back in the net to try and swing the momentum, but the offense failed to comply. The final score was 13-9.

“It was typical of how our season went: up and down,” described forward Tracey Kelusky, who finished the season 11th in league scoring and second in team scoring (35-53-88), behind forward Lewis Ratcliffe (50-54-104).

“We weren’t able to build off anything. We had a great weekend last weekend. You look at (this quarterfinal game), thinking we’re going to play better. We never really peaked. We never played with the sense of urgency that we needed. I don’t know whether it’s complacency. I have no idea what it is.”

Kelusky still insisted this was a championship-caliber team.

Post-game, Dowling told the team that while they didn’t play well in this quarterfinal game, they were still a great team. “If they stick together; get them working together, and they can beat any team in the league.”


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