The Washington Stealth will face the Edmonton Rush in a home-and-home doubleheader in National Lacrosse League West Division action this weekend. The teams square off in Edmonton on February 11, followed by a February 12 meeting at the Comcast Arena at Everett.
The last time these teams met was the 2010 West Division Final, where the Stealth pulled out a dramatic 11-10 overtime victory with a goal from Paul Rabil just eight seconds into overtime. The Stealth would go on to win its first NLL Championship the following weekend.
In 2011, the Stealth is off to a 3-3 start, just one game behind the Calgary Roughnecks for first place in the West Division. The Rush has yet to win a game, sitting last in the West with an 0-5 record. But despite Edmonton’s record, Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall knows that you can’t take any team for granted in the NLL.
“In this league every game is a grind it out type of game,” said Hall. “Edmonton is a very good lacrosse team that has had some bad breaks in the early going. If we aren’t focused and don’t execute the game plan, we will get beat.”
The Stealth is coming off a big 10-8 win in Colorado last weekend, the second win in three games for the defending champs. It was the Stealth’s strongest defensive outing of the season, as reigning NLL Defensive Player of the Week Tyler Richards made a career-high 52 saves to bring the Stealth back to .500. The Stealth offense came to life late in the game, scoring four unanswered goals in the fourth quarter for the victory.
The Stealth offense is led by All-Stars Lewis Ratcliff and Rhys Duch, Ratcliff currently sixth in the NLL with 30 points (11g, 19a) and Duch in eighth with 29 (15g, 14a). After losing Jeff Zywicki – one of the NLL’s top goal scorers – with an injury in the season opener, the Stealth has seen increased production by forward Luke Wiles. Wiles joins Ratcliff, Duch and defenseman Mike Grimes on the West Division All-Star team, with 23 points (12g, 11a) on the season, including a late surge with nine goals and eight assists in the Stealth’s last three games.
Edmonton is off to a rough start due in part to a difficult schedule to start the season, including four of their first five games on the road. Prior to last weekend’s bye, the Rush lost both legs of a doubleheader to West-leading Calgary, the second of which was an 11-10 overtime defeat.
The Rush offense has struggled in the early going, averaging a league-low 8.8 goals per game. Gavin Prout, who has six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in five games, leads the team in scoring. Ryan Ward has 18 points (8g, 10a), while Corey Small and transition player Brodie Merrill are the only other players with double-digit points with 11 and 10, respectively.
On February 11, the Stealth and Rush will play at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta at 6:00pm PST. That game can be seen live on the NLL Network at NLL.com. February 12 is back at the Comcast Arena, with the teams set to face-off at 7:30pm PST. Tickets to that game are available now and can be purchased by calling 877-MY-75-TIX or at www.stealthlax.com.