The 2012 National Lacrosse League season continues for the Washington Stealth this weekend when the team heads east to take on the Philadelphia Wings on Saturday night. Both teams will be looking to pick up the first win of the young 2012 season in the first meeting between the Stealth and Wings since the 2008 season, when the Stealth played in San Jose, Calif.
The Stealth opened the season last weekend at the Comcast Arena at Everett, losing a hard-fought battle to the Calgary Roughnecks 13-10. It was a tough way for the two-time defending Western Division champs, but the loss provided some insight as to how tough the road to a third consecutive NLL Championship Game will be for the Stealth.
“Every time we made a mistake (against Calgary), the ball was in the back of the net,” said Stealth All-Pro forward Lewis Ratcliff. “Teams are too good in this league to expect that we won’t get burned by our mistakes. We looked like a team playing its first game against a team that’s already played and we need to be better this weekend.”
The Wings start the season 0-1 as well, after a 22-12 drubbing at the hands of the Rochester Knighthawks in a fight-filled opener for both teams. The lone bright spot for the Wings was the play of forward Kevin Crowley, who was the top pick in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft. The rookie tallied three goals and five assists in his first NLL game.
While the 22 goals given up by the Wings last weekend could have the Stealth offense, which led the NLL in goals scored in each of the last two seasons, salivating, All-Pro forward Rhys Duch doesn’t expect that to happen twice to a solid Wings defense anchored by goaltender Brandon Miller.
“Miller is a top-notch goaltender in this league and they have a strong, athletic defense,” said Duch, who posted four goals and two assists last week. “Our offense is at its best when the ball is moving and we utilize the chemistry we’ve built on offense the last two years.”
For the Stealth, the primary focus going into the weekend had little to do with offensive or defensive sets, however. The concern coming out of last weekend was the number of transition goals the team gave up to a fast and athletic Roughnecks squad; two qualities also held by the 2012 Wings.
“We weren’t great offensively last week, but we think that aspect of our game will be just fine,” said Ratcliff, who finished second in the NLL a year ago with 92 points during the regular season. “Our defense played great five-on-five and was solid on the penalty kill. But with the new rules, there is even more importance on the transition game and we didn’t do a good job preventing fast break chances.”
The 2012 season is still in its infancy, and the Stealth players realize that. The team is just looking to make improvements from week to week as they build for another run at the Champion’s Cup.
“There’s no question we have to improve on the mistakes we made last week,” added Duch. “In order to do that, we just need to move on to the next game, work hard during the week and get ready for the next opponent. This week it’s Philly, and we’ll be ready.”
The Stealth takes on the Philadelphia Wings at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, January 21 at 4pm PST. The game can be watched live on the NLL Network at NLL.com.