The Washington Stealth head into this weekend’s National Lacrosse League action with a 2-0 record. They will face their biggest test to date this weekend, as they take on East Division powerhouse Buffalo Bandits (0-2) on Friday, January 22 at the Comcast Arena and then travel to the defending NLL Champion Calgary Roughnecks (1-1) on January 23.
“We’re looking forward to this weekend after a strong 2-0 start,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall. “This will be a good test and we’ll see how we do against two of the best teams in the league.”
The Stealth won their first two games convincingly, beating Colorado in the season opener 17-8 and then Edmonton last weekend 15-7. A big reason for that has been the play of their goaltenders, Tyler Richards and Matt Roik. Richards shut down the Colorado offense in game one, allowing just eight goals on 53 shots. Matt Roik was equally as impressive in his first start against Edmonton, holding the Rush to just seven goals on 50 shots.
Offensively, the Stealth lead the league with 16 goals per game. Twelve players have recorded goals led by Jeff Zywicki, who also leads the NLL with seven goals. He’s fourth in the league with 14 points. Also providing significant contributions are Lewis Ratcliff (4 goals, 7 assists) and Rhys Duch (4 goals, 6 assists).
The Buffalo Bandits are off to a slow start with two losses to the Rochester Knighthawks. Despite the shaky start to 2010, the Bandits remain one of the league’s most talented teams. Mark Steenhuis is the team’s leading scorer with nine points (5g, 4a). Last season, Steenhuis was an MVP candidate with 101 points (51g, 50a). Mike Accursi and Roger Vyse have tallied six points apiece in 2010. So far the Bandits have been playing without the NLL’s All-Time leading scorer John Tavares, who had 94 points (51g, 43a) last year. His status is still listed as day-to-day for Friday’s game.
Defensively, the Bandits boast one of the league’s top goaltenders in Ken Montour. He finished 2009 with a 9.57 goals against average and .813 save percentage. In two games this year, his numbers have dropped to 11.00 goals against and a.773 save percentage.
It will be the 11th overall meeting between the two teams, with the Bandits winning eight of the previous ten games.
The Stealth will hit the road for the first time this season on Saturday to take on Calgary in a West Division battle at the Pengrowth Saddledome (6:30pm PST, NLL Network). It will be the first time these teams meet since the Roughnecks handed the Stealth a 17-5 loss in last year’s West Division Final. The Roughnecks went on to win the NLL title with a 12-10 victory over the New York Titans.
The Roughnecks are coming off a 12-10 loss to the Minnesota Swarm last weekend. They feature the league’s leading scorer Josh Sanderson who has a whopping 18 points (6g, 12a) in two games. Sanderson posted 103 points last season, including an NLL record 74 assists. Tracey Kelusky and Dane Dobbie have chimed in with ten and nine points, respectively. The Roughnecks finished second in the league last season in team scoring.
As impressive as the Roughnecks offense has been, their defense has been even better. They allowed the fewest goals of any team in the NLL last season and this year are allowing less than ten goals per game. Goaltender Matt King has started both games and has 64 saves on 83 shots against.
For tickets to the Stealth’s match up with the Buffalo Bandits or any game this season, call 877-MY-75-TIX or log on to www.stealthlax.com.