Mike Grimes takes the ball from a Rochester player last season at the Comcast Arena (Photo by Henry Valentine)
The Washington Stealth is back in action this afternoon as they look to improve their 1-4 record in Rochester against the 2-4 Knighthawks. The Stealth expects to have recent acquisition Athan Iannucci in the lineup for the first time since being traded to the team earlier this week.
The Stealth offense has been a concern for the Stealth coaching staff through its first five games. After leading the National Lacrosse League in goals scored over the last two seasons, the Stealth currently sits last among the league’s nine teams scoring just 9.2 goals per game.
“It’s no secret that our offense has been struggling so far this year,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall. “We need some goals and there was a record goal-scoring sitting out there.”
Iannucci is a former NLL Most Valuable Player, winning the award after scoring a league-record 71 goals in 2008. He joins a Stealth offense that already features two of the league’s top scoring threats in Rhys Duch and Lewis Ratcliff. Duch, a 2012 All-Star selection, leads the team with 27 points (10g, 17a), while Ratcliff has 22 points (10g, 12a) through five games. After a slow start by his standards, Ratcliff has erupted for seven goals and six assists in the last two games.
Aside from Duch and Ratcliff, the Stealth have yet to get the secondary scoring with which the team has grown accustomed the last two seasons. Cam Sedgwick has scored some timely goals for the team and has 11 points (5g, 6a). Brett Bucktooth, who has appeared in three games after being signed as a free agent last month, has come on strong in the last two games with five goals, including a hat trick last week against Calgary.
“When we get some goals from our secondary options, we are a difficult team to beat,” said assistant coach Art Webster, who is filling in on the bench as Hall continues his recovery from cancer treatment. “Having a scorer like Iannucci on the floor gives the defense another weapon to worry about and it will open things up for everyone.”
On the other side of the floor, the Knighthawks enter this game having lost four of five. Things will be made even more difficult this week as five players were suspended by the league following an off-floor altercation in Minnesota. Among the players suspended is Cody Jamieson, the NLL’s second-leading scorer and Jordan Hall, who is fourth on the team in points this season. The team will also be without top defenders Sid Smith and Travis Hill.
Despite the loss of five key players, the Stealth coaching staff knows that the team needs to attack this game as if those players were in the lineup for Rochester.
“There are still plenty of weapons in the Rochester locker room,” said Webster. “And they have filled the roster with proven guys in this league that will be hungry to come out and prove that the Knighthawks are more than just a few guys. We need to stay focused and play a complete 60 minutes tonight.”
The game is scheduled to begin at 4:30pm PST and can be seen live on the NLL Network at NLL.com.