Any time the Washington Stealth and Calgary Roughnecks get together, it’s a big game between heated West Division rivals. But this week when the Stealth (6-3) travel to Calgary (5-3), there is much more than bragging rights on the line. The game is scheduled to be played at 6:30pm PST on March 13 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
The Stealth currently sits atop the West Division standings, a position they have held all season. Their opponent this weekend is not only the defending National Lacrosse League Champion; the Roughnecks are also just a half-game behind the Stealth for first place in the West.
Saturday marks the third meeting of the season between the two teams, with the road team winning the previous two games. The Stealth traveled to Calgary on January 23 and escaped with a 16-15 win due in large part to a nine-point performance from Lewis Ratcliff. At the Comcast Arena on February 19, Calgary jumped out to a 10-1 halftime lead en route to a 13-9 victory. With the season series tied, this weekend’s game could give the winner a tiebreaker come playoff time.
“There is a lot of importance in this game with first place and the season series at stake,” said Calgary Head Coach Dave Pym. “And guys like playing in these types of games.”
Stealth bench boss Chris Hall shared the sentiments of his counterpart. “This is a huge game in the middle of the season. There are a lot of things on the line this weekend.”
While first place and winning the season series are certainly enough motivation for the Stealth, they are also looking to snap out of a three-game skid after starting the season 6-0. “We have to be sick of losing. I certainly am,” added Hall. “That will give us extra incentive to come out focused and with a lot of energy this weekend.”
The Stealth will still be shorthanded on the defensive end of the floor due to injuries and suspension. Assistant Captain Kyle Sorensen has missed the last four games with a lower body injury. Nine-year NLL vet Travis Gillespie has yet to return after suffering a hand injury in the season opener and rookie standout Matt Beers will be out this game due to a one-game suspension resulting from an altercation early this season.
The Stealth offense will also look to get back on track after slowing down in the last three games. Through the first six games, the Stealth averaged more than 14 goals per game. During the three-game slump, the Stealth has mustered just ten goals per game.
The offense still has the firepower to put goals on the board, with the NLL’s number three scorer Jeff Zywicki (55 points) leading the charge.
The Roughnecks, on the other hand, are riding a four-game winning streak after starting the season 1-3. During that streak, Calgary is holding their opponents to just eight goals per game while scoring nearly 13 goals per game. “It’s nice to be where we’re at right now at the half way point,” said Pym.
Josh Sanderson leads Calgary this season with 55 points (18g, 37a). He is one of six Roughnecks with 20+ points on the year. Kaleb Toth has 18 points in five games this season, but played the role of Stealth killer in their last meeting, recording four goals and three assists.
The game can be watched live on the NLL Network at NLL.com.