One month ago, the San Jose Stealth were sitting at 3-7 tied for the worst record in the National Lacrosse League West Division. But with playoff hopes dwindling, the Stealth have won three of their last four and are now tied for third in the West with a chance to clinch a postseason berth. It won’t be an easy task however, as the path to the playoffs goes through the Pepsi Center in Denver and the Colorado Mammoth April 11.
One of the most heated rivalries in the NLL will add another chapter at a pivotal time in the season for both clubs. The teams are in the midst of a three-way tie with the Minnesota Swarm for third place in the West Division. A win guarantees the Stealth a spot in the postseason; while Colorado can clinch a playoff berth with a win this weekend and an Edmonton loss. Bottom line: both teams need the “W”.
It’s the third meeting this season between these two teams, with each coming away with a victory. The Stealth took game one 14-9 on February 21, but the Mammoth came back with a 14-11 victory on March 14. Both games were played at the HP Pavilion in San Jose.
If the fight for a playoff berth between two bitter rivals isn’t enough, there are other subplots to this weekend’s action that will prove intriguing to the NLL fan. A number of NLL records are in jeopardy, and could be broken this weekend.
In 2009, Stealth Captain Colin Doyle has had one of the best individual seasons of his prolific 12-year NLL career. He became the third player in history to record 900 points, notched his 550th assist and set a single-season points record for the Stealth with 99 points (and counting). Doyle’s 67 assists lead the NLL and he is just four assists away from tying the single-season assist record set by Josh Sanderson in 2005. He also leads the league with 99 points and will challenge the NLL’s single-season point record of 115 set by John Tavares in 2001.
Doyle isn’t the only member of the Stealth taking aim at the record books. Rookie of the Year Candidate Rhys Duch has 78 points (29g, 49a) this season, just four short of the rookie scoring record set by Gavin Prout in 2002. Prout set the record while playing for the New York Saints, but now leads the Colorado squad that Duch and the Stealth face this weekend.
Doyle, Duch and teammate Tyler Richards were all awarded Player of the Week honors after their performances against the Minnesota Swarm last week. Doyle was named NLL Offensive Player of the Week, Duch Rookie of the Week and Richards Defensive Player of the Week. Richards has been a big part of the Stealth’s two-game win streak and on the season has a 9.23 goals against average and .822 save percentage.
The Mammoth are in the midst of a three-game losing skid and have lost four of their last five. Injuries have been an issue this season, but Brian Langtry and Gavin Prout are healthy and putting up the numbers one would expect from the perennial All-Stars. Langtry is eighth in the league with 73 points (35g, 38a) while Prout is tied for 13th with 68 (24g, 44a). Colorado has another All-Star on their roster in goaltender Andrew Leyshon. He has cooled down after a hot streak in the first half of the season, but still is among the league leaders with an 11.24 goals against average and a .768 save percentage.
The game is scheduled to begin at 6:00pm PT and can be seen on Altitude (DIRECTV 644/Dish Network 410) or on the NLL network at NLL.com.