The Washington Stealth will play host to the Edmonton Rush on Friday, January 15 in the Comcast Arena at 8:00pm. While the Stealth currently holds a 9-1 edge in the all-time series between the two teams, offseason moves for both teams have made for an intriguing matchup this week.
The Stealth are coming off an impressive 17-8 victory over the Colorado Mammoth in their season opener last weekend. The big question for the Stealth offense heading into 2010 was replacing Colin Doyle and his 111 points last season, but in game one that question was answered. Ten players scored a goal in the game led by Jeff Zywicki with five goals and three assists. 2009 Rookie of the Year Rhys Duch picked up where he left off with six points on a goal and five assists and defenseman Eric Martin also tallied a goal and five assists to go along with 11 loose balls. Second-year transition player Paul Rabil tallied two goals, three assists and six loose balls en route to the week one Transition Player of the Week honors.
The Stealth defense was an offseason focal point for Head Coach Chris Hall and his coaching staff. In his second season, Tyler Richards showed his 2009 All-Rookie Team nomination was no fluke, shutting down the Mammoth offense with 45 saves. In front of Richards, the defense got strong performances from Mike Grimes, who grabbed a game-high 12 loose balls in addition to a goal and three assists on the offensive end. Rookie Matt Beers recorded his first career NLL goal and was a force on the defensive end.
The Edmonton Rush are entering their fifth season in the NLL and have yet to post a winning season. In 2010 however, new Head Coach and General Manager Derek Keenan, who led the Portland Lumberjax to the postseason in three of the previous four seasons, has built a dangerous roster including perennial All-Stars Brodie Merrill, Ryan Powell and Gavin Prout. This weekend marks the first game of 2010 for the new-look Rush.
The Rush drastically improved an offense that scored a league-low 159 goals last season. Merrill is the reigning Transition Player of the Year, recording 47 points (14g, 33a) and grabbing 216 loose balls with Portland a year ago. Powell, another former Lumberjack, led the team with 62 points (18g, 44a) last year. Keenan also brought in Prout through an offseason trade with Rochester. Prout finished with 74 points (26g, 48a) in 2009 as captain of the Colorado Mammoth. The revamped Rush offense also features Andy Secore and Ryan Ward, who finished with 63 and 56 points last season, respectively.
On the defensive end, the Rush added former Portland netminder Matt Disher. Disher finished second last season with a .792 save percentage and was among the top five in goals against average, wins, saves and minutes. In front of Disher is Ian Hawksbee, one of the league’s most tenacious defensemen who recorded 150 loose balls a year ago, and enforcers Bruce Alexander and Ryan McNish.
The West Division clash is slated to start at 8:00pm at the Comcast Arena. It’s “Save a Life Night” at the Comcast Arena with a Bone Marrow Registry Drive taking place prior to the game. It’s also the first of four “Bailout Fridays” where a contest will be held for a chance to win one month’s car payment up to $500. Tickets for the game start at just $13 and are available by calling 877-MY-75-TIX or at www.stealthlax.com.