The Washington Stealth hold the National Lacrosse League’s best record at 7-3, and if they improve to 9-3 this weekend, they will be the first team to clinch a playoff berth in 2010. Standing between the Stealth and the playoffs are the Colorado Mammoth as the two teams wrap up their season series with back-to-back games on March 26 and 27.
The Stealth currently holds a 2-0 lead in the season series with the Mammoth, posting a 17-8 blowout victory on January 9 and leaving the Pepsi Center with a 12-11 win on January 30. And while Colorado sits in last place in the West at 2-7 and riding a five-game losing streak, Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall takes nothing for granted heading into the weekend.
“You can’t take anyone lightly in this league,” said Hall. “It’s going to be a difficult weekend for us. Colorado has an excellent team and with the talent they have, they aren’t far from being at the other end of the division.”
The Mammoth has a trio of veteran players leading the offense with young guns in support. Jamie Shewchuk has a team-high 35 points (16g, 19a), with Brian Langtry and Cory Conway pitching in with 32 points apiece. Two-thirds of Colorado’s Gajic brothers, Alex and Ilija, are among the league’s top rookies and have 26 and 24 points, respectively. Ilija Gajic will be sidelined this weekend due to illness.
The Stealth snapped a three-game losing streak two weeks ago, when they traveled to Calgary and escaped with a 12-11 win. After a bye week, the Stealth will benefit from the rest with Assistant Captain Kyle Sorensen returning to the lineup after six weeks on the injured reserve. Defensemen Mike Grimes and Matt Beers also return to the lineup this week, after serving one-game suspensions due to an altercation in Minnesota on February 12.
“We had some injuries and suspensions, but we battled through it,” said Hall. “The bye week came at a good time in our schedule as we get ready for the final six games.”
The Stealth boasts the West Division’s highest scoring offense and currently ranks just behind Toronto in the NLL. Jeff Zywicki is enjoying an MVP-caliber season with 59 points to lead the Stealth. He is ranked among the NLL’s top five in goals (2nd, 25), assists (5th, 34) and points (4th). Lewis Ratcliff has 51 points (21g, 30a) on the year and 2009 Rookie of the Year Rhys Duch has tallied 47 points (17g, 30a).
The first game of the weekend will take place at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo., on March 26 at 6:00pm PST. The following day, the teams come to Everett to wrap up the season series at “Pink in the Rink Night” to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure at the Comcast Arena at 7:30pm PST. It has been over a month since the Stealth played a game in Everett, and they are looking forward to a great homecoming.
“We’re excited to get home,” said Hall. “The Comcast Arena has been a great home for us. The players are excited, and from what I hear, so are the fans. We look forward to playing in front of our fans and it sounds like we are going to have a great crowd.”
Friday night’s game in Colorado can be seen on Altitude (DirecTV) or on the NLL Network at NLL.com. Tickets for “Pink in the Rink Night” to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure at the Comcast Arena are available now and start at just $13. They can be purchased by calling 877-MY-75-TIX or at www.stealthlax.com.