Calling tonight’s game between the Washington Stealth and Boston Blazers the “Chowder Cup” is all in good fun and so is the friendly wager between the teams’ presidents (the loser will be eating the winner’s hometown chowder on camera). On the floor however, tonight’s game is all business between a pair of teams with plenty of star power and a lot on the line in the National Lacrosse League standings.
The amount of talent on the two rosters is reason enough to expect a tremendous lacrosse game, particularly on offense. The two teams combined to send ten players to the 2011 NLL All-Star game earlier this season.
The top four scorers in the NLL will be on the floor tonight, with Boston’s one-two punch of Dan Dawson and Casey Powell tops in the league with 68 and 65 points, respectively. They are followed on the NLL points list by Stealth forwards Lewis Ratcliff, with 64 points, and Rhys Duch, who has 59 points on the year. Each team also has a plethora of offensive talent beyond its top two scorers, leading to a battle between two of the top four offenses in the NLL.
“It’s going to be a challenge for both defenses, that’s for sure,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall, whose offense is currently tops in the NLL averaging 13.27 goals per game. “Both teams bring a ton of firepower up front. You never hope to be in a shootout, but sometimes you can’t avoid it.”
Defense has been a focal point for Coach Hall and his staff leading up to the game. Facing the fourth-ranked offense in the NLL, the Stealth looks to improve upon its previous outing where it allowed 17 goals in a loss to the Calgary Roughnecks. The Stealth announced last week the activation of assistant captain Kyle Sorensen from the physically unable to perform list and expect Chris McElroy to be ready to go this week after missing the last two games, adding two key pieces to the Stealth’s back door.
“Getting Sorensen back is huge for us as he is an anchor for our defensive unit,” said Hall. “We missed McElroy last game and having two guys of their caliber on the floor will hopefully tighten things up on the defensive end.”
Tonight’s game will also pit two of the NLL’s top goaltenders against one another in the Stealth’s Tyler Richards and Boston’s All-Star netminder Anthony Cosmo. Richards is among the NLL’s top five goaltenders with a .785 save percentage while Cosmo is second in the league with a 9.23 goals against average.
Both the Stealth and the Blazers are in the thick of the NLL playoff race; both fighting for the opportunity to host a first round playoff game in their respective divisions. The Stealth sits in third place in the West at 5-6, just one game behind the second place Minnesota Swarm. A win for the Stealth tonight clinches a berth in the playoffs. Boston is third in the East at 6-5, fighting to catch the second place Buffalo Bandits.
As if playoff positioning wasn’t enough of a motivational factor, each team enters tonight’s contest having lost its previous game. The Stealth fell to the Calgary Roughnecks, the leaders of the West Division. Boston has lost its last two games, both to Buffalo, the team it chases in the East Standings. A win for either team will not only keep it in the race for a top-two finish in the division, but also go a long way in building momentum for the final five games of the regular season.
“This is the beginning of the toughest part of our schedule,” said Hall. “We play four East teams in our final five games and its time we realize as a group that we have to start playing up to our ability. We’ve had some average performances and now is the time to start playing playoff-style lacrosse.”
The “Chowder Cup” between the Washington Stealth and Boston Blazers takes place tonight at 8pm at the Comcast Arena at Everett. Tickets start at just $13 and are available by calling 877-MY-75-TIX, at www.stealthlax.com or at the Comcast Arena Box Office.