Home opener preview: New England @ Vancouver

The new look Vancouver Stealth will get their first test of the 2016 NLL season against an eastern opponent in the New England Black Wolves. It marks the first ever trip to the LEC for New England and will be the only meeting of the year between the two teams. The Stealth played the New England franchise for the first time ever last season at Mohegan Sun Arena, where they won 11-9.

The Stealth offense will be an exciting group to watch tonight which boasts an elite five-man unit of Garrett Billings, Rhys Duch, Joel McCready, Logan Schuss, and Corey Small. Billings makes his much anticipated Stealth debut after being acquired from the Black Wolves in the off-season.

“I couldn’t be more excited to get going with the Stealth. It might be a bit weird at first playing my former team, but I am just going to treat it like any other game. There is some pressure on me to perform well, but I am looking forward to the challenge,” said the Langley native Billings.

Including the practice roster and injured reserve, the Stealth have 13 players that hail from British Columbia. Ladner’s Logan Schuss has been anxiously counting down the days until the home opener.

“The guys in the room are excited to get back and play in front of our home crowd. The LEC is a great place to play and as player, we really feed off of their energy. All of us have worked so hard through training camp and exhibition and we are ready to put it all together and show what we can do,” said Schuss.

The Black Wolves have a crop of very talented forwards that can do damage. Their prized off-season acquisition was Shawn Evans, who won NLL MVP honours last season and set the all-time NLL single season points record with 130. This past summer he also won the MVP award at the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship with Team Canada.

“They have a very good offense that is going to be led by Shawn. He is dangerous when he has time and space, so we will have to do a good job on him. They also have a few other threats in Kevin Crowley, who is a local guy (New Westminster) and Pat Saunders (Langley Thunder) that can hurt you as well. They are a big aggressive group and should be a tough game,” said second year bench boss Dan Perreault.

The 2016 version of the Stealth have a solid mix of veterans and youth throughout the line-up. When Coach Perreault looks at his roster, there is one word that comes to mind.

“Balance. We have a good mix of players that I believe will work very well with one another. On a nightly basis, we just ask that everybody does their job and contribute or else we won’t be successful. There is going to be times throughout the year where a certain area isn’t performing well and we will need other guys to step up,” finished Perreault.

STEALTH NOTES: This will be the Stealth’s 17th home opener. All-time they are 7-9. The most goals the franchise has scored on opening night was 20 back in 2002 as the Albany Attack. Last Year’s team nearly got to that mark when they put up 18 goals against the Calgary Roughnecks on January 3, 2015.

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