The Washington Stealth (2-2) head to Minnesota this weekend for the second game of a four-game road trip against the Swarm at the Xcel Energy Center Saturday night. The Stealth looks to avenge a 16-8 loss to the Swarm on January 14 at the Comcast Arena, the Stealth’s worst defeat since 2009.
The Swarm (2-1) currently sits a half game ahead of the Stealth atop the West Division standings. They head into this weekend’s action fresh off back-to-back wins, the January 14 win over the Stealth and a 9-8 victory over the Edmonton Rush a week ago.
Minnesota continues to ride the stellar play of goaltender Nick Patterson, who leads the National Lacrosse League in goals against average (8.85) and save percentage (.821). Patterson tallied 50 saves in his first meeting against the Stealth this season.
The Swarm offense is led by Ryan Benesch, who currently ranks eighth in the NLL with 21 points (10g, 11a) in three games. Eleven of those points came in a Swarm record-setting performance against the Stealth, where Benesch tallied seven goals and four assists.
The Stealth got back on track last weekend with a 19-14 victory in Calgary. Both of the Stealth’s wins this season have come on the road, the first an overtime victory in the season opener in Colorado.
Despite winning in their last contest, the Stealth knows that they need to continue their progress, especially in a West Division game against a team that defeated them convincingly in their previous meeting.
“It’s still pretty fresh in our memory,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall about the meeting two weeks ago with the Swarm. “Losing by eight goals is unacceptable. And this being the second of a three-game series with Minnesota, it’s a pretty important game.
The Stealth hopes to continue the offensive effort from a week ago, when they were led by reigning NLL Offensive Player of the Week Luke Wiles. Wiles recorded five goals and five assists, more than doubling his season total. The usual suspects, Rhys Duch and Lewis Ratcliff poured in eight points each, Duch with four goals and four assists and Ratcliff with two and six. Craig Conn, playing in his second game with the Stealth after being signed to replace the injured Jeff Zywicki, had a breakout performance with four goals and an assist.
While the offense was clicking to the tune of 19 goals last week, the Stealth defense continued to struggle. The Stealth has given up a league-high 53 goals for a league-high 13.25 goals against average. Goaltender Tyler Richards returned from injury last week for his first start since the 2010 NLL title game, and made 39 saves in the win.
The Washington Stealth and Minnesota Swarm square off at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on Saturday at 5:30pm PST. The game can be seen live on the NLL Network at NLL.com.