EVERETT, Wash. — Coming off a needed bye-week, the 7-5 Washington Stealth host NLL West Division rival Calgary, Saturday with a chance to take the season series over the Roughnecks and punch its ticket to the post season for the third time in four years.
Game time at Everett’s Comcast Arena is 6:45 p.m.
With the NLL playoffs clearly in its sights, the Stealth could potentially have its playoff berth locked up with either a Minnesota loss on Friday night or a Colorado loss on Saturday. And begin work in the final three weeks of the season toward a home-floor advantage in the playoffs.
In either scenario, Washington looks to become the fourth team in the NLL to make it into the post season as Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary all earned its spot during week 12 of NLL play.
“Anytime you have the opportunity to clinch a playoff spot this early in the season it’s always special,” said Stealth head coach Chris Hall.
“To clinch this weekend at home in front of our fans on “Pink in The Rink” night would be special and it would give us some breathing room to fine tune some things as we head into the playoffs.”
On Saturday, as fans Stick it to Breast Cancer with Everett’s Providence Comprehensive Breast Center in “Pink in The Rink Night”, the Stealth take-on a talented Calgary squad, also with a 7-5 record, with potent offensive weapons including right-handed forward Shawn Evans. The NLL’s top assists and points man in 2013, Evans has already chalked-up 26 goals and 56 assists for 82 points.
“Looking back at the last four games we’ve been playing pretty well with the exception of the Minnesota game,” said Stealth defender and team captain Kyle Sorensen.
“I think a lot of us have that chip on our shoulder thinking about it for a week and a half we just have to come in and have a good practice on Friday,” he said.
To shake its “chip” and earn an eighth win, twice its 2012 total, the Stealth will need to shut down a Roughneck offensive unit averaging more than 14-goals per game. And find an answer to top Calgary producers Dane Dobbie and Curtis Dickson. Both figure in the NLL’s top five in goals, holding down fourth and fifth respectively.
“Calgary has a pretty potent offense good goaltending and they have good defense as they showed last weekend so we got a pretty big test ahead of us this weekend,” said Sorensen who knocked down three assists, eight loose balls and two forced turnovers in the Stealth’s 16-14 home win over the Roughnecks in late February.
Defensively the Stealth are hot, holding opponents to just over 10 goals per game in its last seven starts and 12 for the full season.
A big reason for its stingy ways is the world-class play of goaltender Tyler Richards.
But on Saturday, Richards faces another top stopper in Mike Poulin. Both goaltenders are among the league leaders in saves this season with Richards ranking second with 432 and Poulin third with 430.
“We have to be on our game for 60 minutes to come out on top,” Sorensen said.
Washington will be happy to return home where it will play three of its final four games of the regular season. This season The Stealth has compiled a 4-1 record at the Comcast Arena and is yet to lose with Richards between the pipes.
With four-games remaining in the regular season the Stealth finds itself in the thick of the NLL West race deadlocked with the Roughnecks at 7-5 trailing the Edmonton Rush by just a half-game. The winner of Saturday’s contest will pull even with Edmonton at 8-5 as the Rush will not be in action this weekend.
If the Stealth want to win its way into the playoffs and back to the top of the division it will have to find a way to deal with the league’s most dangerous offense statistically.
In this year’s first meeting, the Stealth rode a 10-point night by Rhys Duch and a four-goal performance by Athan Iannucci to tie its season-high in goal production on its way to defeating the Roughnecks 16-14 at Comcast Arena.
The Stealth has won three of its last four games but is looking to shake off a rare offensive let down from March 16 when it posted a season low five-goals against the Minnesota Swarm.
Duch, who continues to impress, figured in four of the Stealth’s five goals finishing with two goals and two assists. Through 12 weeks of the NLL season the Victoria, British Columbia native has scored 33 goals trailing only John Grant Jr. of the Colorado Mammoth and Mark Matthews of the Edmonton Rush who have both scored a league best 35-goals this season.
Following Saturday’s contest, the Stealth and Roughnecks are back at it again next weekend when the home and home series shifts to the Scotia Bank Saddle Dome in Calgary for another pivotal NLL West show down with major playoff implications.
“Win’s are hard to come by in this league and back to back with Calgary at this point in the season is going to be a real test they’ve got a phenomenal offense that’s pretty tough to handle,” Hall said .
“Obviously the focus is to win and clinch a playoff spot but you can’t think ahead you have to take it game by game here and we know that Calgary is a tough hot team so we’ll have lots to prepare for.”
NLL WEEK 13
Game: Calgary Roughnecks (7-5) at Washington Stealth (7-5)
Date: Saturday, March 30, 2013
Time: 6:45 p.m. PDT
Location: Comcast Arena- Everett, Wash.
Webcast: The NLL on YouTube on The Lacrosse Network available at www.stealthlax.com
With a victory Saturday, or a loss by either the Colorado Mammoth or the Minnesota Swarm, the Washington Stealth will punch its ticket to the post-season dance for the third time in the last four years.
For the second time this season Bob Snider will go head-to-head with his older brother Geoff in battle of the two top face off men in the NLL. This season Bob Snider has won almost 63% of his face offs for a total of 196. He’s now 15 ahead of Jay Thorimbert of the Buffalo Bandits who sits in third place.
The Stealth have a 4-1 record at home this season, scoring more than 13 goals-per-game in those victories while holding its opponents to an even 10 goals-per-game.
The Stealth are 4-0 at home in games that Tyler Richards has played.
If Rhys Duch averages 3.75 goals in his remaining four-games, he would tie for the franchise’s all-time single season record of 48 goals set while the organization was in San Jose in 2008.
Washington forward Mitch Jones will see action at home for the first time on Saturday. Activated just prior to the Minnesota game after finishing the NCAA hockey season at Northern Michigan University, Jones had one assist and two shots on goal in limited action in St. Paul.
Stealth coach Chris Hall, who brought an NLL Champions Cup title to Washington state in 2010 and took the Stealth to the finals again in 2011, also coached Calgary to the league title in 2004.
Saturday is the Stealth’s annual Pink in the Rink breast cancer awareness game. With breast cancer having effected family and friends of several in the organization including goaltender Tyler Richards and owner Denise Watkins, the night is both a community passion and a personal cause. Pink in the Rink activities, including an auction of pink game-worn jerseys, benefit Everett’s Providence Comprehensive Breast Center – the largest of its kind in the Puget Sound Region. In past year’s the event has raised over $20,000 to provide free mammogram screenings and treatment and diagnostic services to women without insurance resources.