At the start of the 2011 National Lacrosse League season it looked like the Calgary Roughnecks were going to celebrate their tenth anniversary in the league with a rebuilding year. Off-season deals had sent top scorer Josh Sanderson and long-time team captain Tracey Kelusky elsewhere and it appeared like this might be a long season for Calgary.
Nobody told the Roughnecks, however; within the first minute of their season opener against Kelusky and the Buffalo Bandits, Curtis Dickson had scored an acrobatic goal, putting the ‘Necks out front and setting the tone for his Rookie of the Year performance.
The Roughnecks put the league on notice that this was not a rebuilding year. By season’s end, the Roughnecks had won the Western Conference with an 11-5 record, transition player Jeff Shattler had won the league MVP award, and, although they fell short of a championship, the season had to be considered a major success.
Over the past summer, the Roughnecks made a few moves to get them to the next level. The biggest move was in the front office, when the Calgary Flames purchased the team from former owner Brad Banister. The June purchase stabilized the finances of the franchise, which had been in question for much of the 2011 season.
The biggest player move of the off-season was the acquisition of Shawn Evans from Rochester, who will add serious depth to an already potent offense. Evans racked up 73 points last season, 14th most in the league, as well as picking up 96 loose balls. Joining a mix that already includes MVP Jeff Shattler and sniper Dane Dobbie (who tied for the team lead in points with 75), the aforementioned NLL RoY “Superman” Dickson, as well as Scott Ranger, Kaleb Toth, and Daryl Veltman, Calgary should have a balanced, effective attack.
Transition player Geoff Snider, arguably the best face-off man in the league (NLL high 235 wins), as well as being a top defender (171 loose balls) adds toughness, grit and fire to the mix. Snider's aggressive approach resulted in his leading the team (and the league) in penalty minutes with 74, but also quickly made him a fan favourite. Nolan Heavenor also provides solid minutes in transition and is a better-than-average faceoff man when called upon.
The team’s defense will once again center around team captain Andrew McBride and the Carnegie brothers, Mike and Scott. Older brother Mike was named to the NLL All-Pro Second Team and was second in the league in forced turnovers with 25. The defensive corps may, however, feel the loss of high-energy stalwart Bruce Codd, who has moved on to Toronto for the 2012 season.
Goaltender Mike Poulin, who backstopped all but nine-and-a-half minutes of last year’s campaign, has been re-signed to a new three-year contract with the Roughnecks confident that they have a top shelf goalie. His 11.03 goals against average was right in the middle of the pack last year, but the Poulin Wall has a knack for making the big save at key moments.
Calgary has also signed all five of their draft picks. They are especially high on 6’2” transition prospect Travis Cornwall, who had a 100-point season in his last year of juniors and could make an immediate impact on both ends of the floor.
Calgary’s season opens January 8 against the defending champion Toronto Rock.