The Washington Stealth turns to the Comcast Arena at Everett this weekend to take on Western Division rival Edmonton Rush Saturday night. Both teams are searching for its first win of the young 2012 season; the Stealth currently at 0-2, while the Rush lost its only game thus far and sits at 0-1.
“Division games are big. Division home games are even bigger,” said Stealth Assistant Coach Art Webster.
That sentiment rings very true throughout the Stealth locker room as the team has won just three of its last nine games at the Comcast Arena, dating back to the start of the 2011 season. The Stealth went just 3-5 at home in 2011 and despite that record, went 7-3 on the road, including a pair of road wins in the playoffs as the team advanced to its second straight NLL Championship Game. In 2010, the Stealth went 6-2 at home and earned the right to host three playoff games en route to the NLL title.
The Stealth lost the 2012 home opener 13-10 to the Calgary Roughnecks on January 14.
“We aren’t in panic mode by any means,” added Webster, who continues to lead the team as Head Coach Chris Hall undergoes treatment for throat cancer. “But road wins are hard to come by in this league and we need to take care of business in our rink this weekend.”
The Stealth will look for the win this weekend against a new-look Edmonton Rush team with playoff aspirations after missing the postseason a year ago with a 5-11 record. The Rush lost its 2012 season opener at home last weekend, dropping a 13-12 heartbreaker to the Colorado Mammoth. Despite that loss, Webster and the Stealth are well aware of the weapons on this Rush squad.
“They have a young, athletic defense and dangerous veterans up front,” said Webster. “It’s only a matter of time before they start firing on all cylinders and they’ll be a tough team. We need to be prepared for a battle on both ends of the floor.”
The Stealth defense has played well in the early going this season, allowing just ten goals to the Philadelphia Wings last weekend in a 10-9 overtime loss. During that contest, the Stealth held the Wings offense scoreless for a span of over 30 minutes.
They will have their hands full against the Rush offense that features one of the NLL’s premiere playmakers in Shawn Williams, who set a Rush record with nine points, including eight assists last weekend. He will look to feed the likes of Ryan Ward and Zack Greer, each of whom tallied hat tricks against the Mammoth.
Uncharacteristically for the Stealth, the offense has struggled in the early going, having posted only 19 goals in two games. In each of the last two seasons, the Stealth has led the NLL in goals scored, averaging nearly 13 goals per game. But with players like Rhys Duch and Lewis Ratcliff leading the charge, it’s only a matter of time before the ball finds the back of the net more frequently.
“We know we’ve got the offensive talent to score goals with anyone in this league,” said Webster. “We’ve been too complacent these first two games. We need to get back to playing our style of offense; get into the dirty areas of the floor, sacrifice our bodies a bit, and stop settling for outside shots. We have smart, veteran players up front and they know what needs to be done to turn it around.”
The offense will have to do so without Jeff Zywicki in the lineup, as the seventh-year forward was placed on the physically unable to perform list earlier this week. 2011 All-Star Brett Bucktooth was signed to the Stealth’s active roster as a replacement.
“When we get both ends of the floor playing to their full potential at the same time, we are going to be a tough team to beat,” said Webster. “Mentally and physically, we will be prepared to play a full 60 minutes against the Rush.”
The Stealth hosts the Rush on Saturday, January 28 at 7:30pm. It’s “Hometown Heroes Night” at the Comcast Arena with a special recognition for local military and first responders. There will also be a “Players for Prevention” fundraiser with all proceeds benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
For more information on the Stealth, including a complete schedule and ticket information, call 877-MY-75-TIX or visit www.stealthlax.com.