The Year of the Stealth

The term “offseason” doesn’t really apply to lacrosse players.  After the National Lacrosse League season is completed in May, many players venture off to different leagues during the summer.  The Stealth roster is no exception, with players keeping busy in North America and overseas, in arenas and on the field.  And the boys that don the Red & Black all winter have yet to see their momentum cool down during the months of summer heat.

The Three MVPs
With the NLL, Major League Lacrosse (pro field lacrosse) and the FIL World Field Lacrosse Championships, there was plenty of top-notch lacrosse being played in 2010.  And at the highest levels of the game, there was a Stealth player that stepped up when it mattered most.

The most obvious performance to regular Stealth fans is Lewis Ratcliff’s Champion’s Cup MVP performance for the Stealth at the Comcast Arena on May 15.  Ratcliff tallied five goals and added an assist to lead the Stealth to its first NLL title.  The Champion’s Cup MVP honor came on the heels of an MVP-caliber regular season, where Ratcliff led the league with 46 goals and was second with 97 points.

Major League Lacrosse just wrapped up its season, and there was plenty of Stealth influence during championship weekend.  Each playoff team had at least one Stealth player on their roster.  And while a championship game between the Long Island Lizards and Chesapeake Bayhawks came as a surprise to most, it was even more astounding when Stealth transition player/Chesapeake defenseman Kyle Hartzell was awarded the playoff MVP honor.  In two playoff games, Hartzell was credited with shutting down the opposition’s top scorers en route to a Bayhawks’ championship.

One of the biggest events in the lacrosse world happens every fourth summer at the FIL World Field Lacrosse Championships.  The top lacrosse players in the world gathered in Manchester, England last July to battle for national pride and a gold medal.  As expected, powerhouses Canada and the United States met in the gold medal game.  Avenging their loss to Canada in 2006, Team USA beat their neighbors to the north 12-10 to bring home the gold.  Stealth transition player/USA midfielder Paul Rabil was named the tournament’s MVP, recording 16 goals and seven assists in seven games, including a hat trick in the gold medal game.  Rabil and Stealth teammate Eric Martin earned gold with Team USA while Stealth forward Rhys Duch earned silver with Team Canada.

Summer Box Lacrosse Awards
The summer isn’t just about field lacrosse.  The indoor game’s best players head north to clash on the concrete for Canadian box lacrosse supremacy.  Many Stealth players are on teams in the Western Lacrosse Association, and they made an impact on the league this summer.

Stealth defenseman Mike Grimes plays for the Langley Thunder during the summer, and despite missing the WLA playoffs, Grimes was honored as the league’s top defenseman in 2010.  He played 15 games for Langley, recording 11 points (5g, 6a) and locking down the opposition’s top offensive threats.  Grimes also earned WLA first team All-Star honors for his efforts.

Twelve players earn a place on WLA All-Star teams, with Stealth stars accounting for one-third of those spots.  Joining Grimes as a first teamer is Rhys Duch, who plays his summer ball with the Victoria Shamrocks.  Duch finished 14th in WLA scoring this season, recording 55 points (28g, 27a) in 12 regular season games.  He’s been even better during the WLA playoffs with 47 points (17g, 30a) in just nine games to lead all scorers.

The Stealth also had a pair of players earn WLA second team All-Star honors.  Ratcliff, who suits up for the Nanaimo Timbermen, finished third in WLA scoring with 84 points (34g, 50a) in 14 games.  Stealth goaltender Matt Roik was also a second team All-Star, posting a 6-4 record in ten appearances for the New Westminster Salmonbellies.  Roik’s .806 save percentage was tops in the WLA while his 8.35 goals against average was good for third.

In the President’s Cup (Canadian Senior ‘B’ National Championship), Stealth forward Luke Wiles led the tournament in scoring with 36 points (13g, 23a) in seven games with the Kahnawake Mohawks.  The Mohawks earned the bronze medal in the tournament.

Junior Beers?
Stealth defenseman Matt Beers, 20, became the second-youngest player in NLL history to hoist the Champion’s Cup last May.  But despite proving his ability to play with the big boys in the pro ranks, during the summer in Canada, Beers is still considered a Junior player.  As captain of the Coquitlam Junior Adanacs, Beers earned Defenseman of the Year honors and a British Columbia Junior Lacrosse Association title.  He was also named a BCJLA first team All-Star.

Still Playing
The summer season in Canada is coming to a close with the WLA Championships in full swing and the Minto Cup tournament ready to crown this year’s Junior ‘A’ champion: and the Stealth presence is strong.

The Victoria Shamrocks and New Westminster Salmonbellies are in the midst of the WLA Championship series, with the winner set to take on the league champion from Ontario.  The Salmonbellies hold a commanding 3-0 series lead at the moment, but whether New West finishes the series or Victoria makes a dramatic comeback the Stealth will be represented in Canada’s national box lacrosse championship, the Mann Cup.  Playing for the Shamrocks are Stealth players Rhys Duch and Kory Kowalyk and recent signees Rhys Jones and Chet Koneczny.  For the ‘Bellies, Tyler Richards, Matt Roik and Curtis Hodgson, along with recent signees Tyler Crompton and Martin Cummings represent the Red & Black.

In the junior ranks, Beers and his Adanacs squad are still vying for the Canadian Junior national championship in the 2010 Minto Cup Finals.  Coquitlam is currently 2-0 in the tournament after winning the BCJLA crown.

There may be more rings to be won by Stealth players in 2010.  But once the calendar flips to 2011, the boys will be back in Washington battling the best the world has to offer in defense of the NLL title.




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