The Washington Stealth (1-2) are off to a slow start in the 2011 season, but have a chance to get revenge for one of those losses this weekend as they travel to Calgary to take on the Roughnecks for the second time. The teams met at the Comcast Arena during the first weekend of the season, with Calgary (2-1) escaping with a 13-11 victory.
Both teams are coming off a loss last weekend; the Stealth falling 16-8 to the Minnesota Swarm and the Roughnecks losing 8-7 to the Colorado Mammoth. A win for the Stealth this weekend will even the season series with Calgary, while a Roughnecks victory will give them the season tie-breaker.
In the first meeting, Calgary benefitted from a fast start, jumping out to a 6-1 lead in the first quarter. Forwards Dane Dobbie and Jeff Shattler paced the Roughnecks, recording three goals apiece. Along with Scott Ranger, who scored the game-winner against the Stealth on January 9, Dobbie and Shattler round out the top three scorers for the Roughnecks through three games. Ranger has 12 points (8g, 4a), Dobbie with nine (4g, 5a) and Shattler has pitched in eight (4g, 4a).
A great deal of the Roughnecks’ early season success is due to the play of goaltender Mike Poulin. In three games, Poulin has saved over 77% of the shots he’s faced, allowing just over nine goals per game. He made 33 saves against the Stealth two weeks ago.
On the Stealth side, Head Coach Chris Hall has to work his way around a few injuries in the lineup, the team playing without assistant captain Kyle Sorensen on defense and forward Jeff Zywicki, one of the league’s top goal scorers, who has been on the injured reserve since the first game of the season. The team has also been without Tyler Richards for the first three games, but he is expected to return this weekend.
“Last week was a poor effort on our part,” said Hall. “There are a few injuries we are battling through, but that’s no excuse for the way we have been playing.”
The Stealth offense has yet to produce like it did a year ago, averaging ten goals a game. 2010 Champion’s Cup MVP Lewis Ratcliff, who played six seasons in Calgary, had a big day in the last meeting against his former club with five goals and two assists. He currently leads the Stealth and is tied for tops in the league with 16 points (8g, 8a) this season. Forward Rhys Duch has 15 points (7g, 8a) on the year, good for third in the NLL.
Defensively, the Stealth ranks last in the NLL, allowing 13 goals per game. The penalty kill unit, which was tops in the league a year ago, ranks ninth in the NLL through its first three games.
The Stealth takes on the Roughnecks at 6:30pm PST at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The game can be seen live on the NLL Network at NLL.com.