Over the past three seasons, the Washington Stealth and Toronto Rock have developed a tremendous East-West National Lacrosse League rivalry, beginning with the 2010 NLL Championship Game, the first of two straight clashes for the Champion’s Cup between the two teams. But tonight’s installment of this budding rivalry is much different for the Stealth than how it began.
The Stealth is currently in a fight for its playoff life, sitting at 4-10 and on the outside of the postseason picture. All that could change very quickly for the defending West Division Champions, and it starts with a victory tonight. Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall still has faith in his roster, which remains largely in tact after two straight appearances in the NLL Championship Game.
“We still have confidence in our abilities and know that we can play better,” said Hall. “But talk is cheap and we need to make it happen on the floor. Toronto poses a formidable opponent for us, we just need to get it together and win a lacrosse game.”
The Stealth is coming off a 14-9 loss to the Minnesota Swarm last week. The team has yet to string together two wins in a row this season, but is forced to do so in the final two regular season games – both at home – to better the chances for a playoff berth. In order to do so, Hall is looking to his veteran team to play better fundamental lacrosse.
“We are an experienced, veteran team, but we’ve been making some non-veteran mistakes,” he said. “We need to play like there’s no tomorrow for us and play like we are capable of playing.”
The Stealth showed their capabilities several times this season, one of which came in Toronto in a 14-9 victory over the Rock in early March. The Stealth did so without All-Pro forward Rhys Duch or starting goaltender Tyler Richards, both sitting out with injury. But their teammates picked up the slack as eleven players scored goals and backup goaltender Kevin Croswell made 41 saves in his first game with the team. Richards has since returned and has been stellar ever since, recording 40+ saves in each of the last five games.
Richards and his Stealth teammates will have their hands full against a Toronto Rock squad that is 3-1 in its last four game and has a chance to secure a home playoff date with a win tonight. A big reason for the Rock’s strong record of late is the play of goaltender Nick Rose, who has started each of the last four games. Rose has posted a 9.99 goals against average and .763 save percentage since being acquired by the Rock via trade.
The Rock offense is also a formidable foe, averaging over twelve goals per game on the season. Toronto is led by forward Garrett Billings, who ranks second in the NLL with 99 points (26g, 73a). He is one of five players on the Rock roster that has 45+ points this season, including former Stealth captain Colin Doyle, who has 46 points (22g, 24a) and is just one point away from moving into second place on the NLL’s all-time points list.
Here’s the playoff scenario for the Stealth: The team clinches a playoff berth with two wins AND a Rochester win over Philadelphia on April 28. Clinches a playoff berth with a Buffalo loss to Rochester on April 21 AND a Washington win against Buffalo on April 28.
The Stealth takes on the Toronto Rock tonight at 7:45pm at the Comcast Arena at Everett. Tickets start at just $7 and are available by calling 877-MY-75-TIX, at the Comcast Arena Box Office or at www.stealthlax.com.