The Washington Stealth picked up its first win of 2012 last weekend against the Buffalo Bandits, improving its record to 1-3 on the season. The victory celebration was short-lived for the defending West Division Champs however, as tonight’s contest against the rival Calgary Roughnecks holds even larger implications for both teams.
Tonight’s match-up is the second in a three-game season series between the Stealth and Roughnecks. In the Stealth’s season opener on January 14, the Roughnecks escaped the Comcast Arena with a 13-10 victory. A win for Calgary this weekend will give the Roughnecks the season tiebreaker should the teams finish the regular season with an identical record.
Calgary was 2-0 following the victory over the Stealth, sitting atop the West Division standings. The Roughnecks have since lost a pair of overtime games to fall to 2-2, good for second in the West. Goaltender Mike Poulin leads the defense, posting an 11.14 goals against average and .769 save percentage. He recorded a season-high 49 saves in the first meeting against the Stealth.
The Calgary offense is averaging 12.5 goals per game, due in large part to a balanced offensive attack and formidable transition game. Six players have already tallied double-digit points for the team, led by reigning NLL MVP Jeff Shattler and reigning Rookie of the Year Curtis Dickson. The duo has tallied 17 points apiece.
The season opener marked the first of a three-game losing streak to start the season for the Stealth, the worst start in team history. The losing streak was magnified by a 16-5 drubbing at the hands of the Edmonton Rush two weeks ago at the Comcast Arena, where the Stealth is 0-2 so far in 2012.
The Stealth’s struggles offensively to start the season were no secret, as the highest scoring team in each of the last two NLL seasons was averaging a meager eight goals per game through three games.
But the Stealth got back on the winning track last week in Buffalo, due in large part to the play of its two All-Pro forwards, Rhys Duch and Lewis Ratcliff. Duch earned NLL Offensive Player of the Week honors after a four-goal, four-assist performance that included the game-winner in the Stealth’s 11-10 overtime victory. Ratcliff added three goals and three assists, nearly doubling his offensive totals for the season.
The Stealth returns home to the Comcast Arena in search of its first divisional win and the potential to climb out of the basement of the West Division standings. The two teams have developed a heated rivalry over the years, particularly since the Stealth moved to Washington as both teams have been in a constant battle for West Division supremacy. This match up is sure to be the latest chapter in this fast-paced, hard-hitting rivalry.
The Washington Stealth hosts the Calgary Roughnecks tonight at 7:45pm at the Comcast Arena at Everett. Tickets are on sale now at www.stealthlax.com, by calling 877-MY-75-TIX or at the Comcast Arena Box Office.