The Stealth looks for its first home win of 2012 tonight against the Swarm
The last time the Washington Stealth played the Minnesota Swarm it was the first round of the 2011 playoffs. The third-seeded Stealth traveled to Minnesota and left the Xcel Energy Center with a 14-8 victory that started its postseason trek to a second straight NLL Championship Game.
Tonight, the two teams meet again; the Swarm (3-3) with a remodeled roster exceeding expectations having won two of its last three games, the Stealth (1-5) struggling after back-to-back losses and in search of its championship-caliber form.
The Stealth hopes the return of Head Coach Chris Hall, who is on the bench for the first time in 2012 after undergoing treatment for throat cancer, will provide the spark to turn the season around. But no matter who is on the bench, Hall and the Stealth know that consistency on the floor from the players is what will right the ship.
“We need to come out and play with passion and pride for a full 60 minutes,” said Hall, who watched from his Victoria, B.C. home as his team gave up five goals in the final six minutes in last week’s 15-12 loss to Rochester. “Every game in this league will be a close battle until the final whistle. Fourth quarters of games are critical and we need to be better.”
The Stealth has been outscored 24-14 in the final frame this season, giving up eleven four quarter goals in the last two games.
Washington looks to get back on track tonight against a Minnesota Swarm team that features a slew of youngsters that have proven early in their careers that their time to challenge for the West Division crown is now.
Rookies Jordan MacIntosh (8g, 9a) and Corbyn Tao (7g, 8a) have contributed to an offense that also boasts a potent one-two punch with veterans Callum Crawford (8g, 28a) and Ryan Benesch (16g, 15a). Second-year transition player Andrew Suitor (7g, 5a) leads a strong back-door attack while rookie goaltenders Tyler Carlson and Evan Kirk anchor the defense.
“(The Swarm) is a team playing with a ton of confidence right now,” said Hall. “They have a great mix of proven veterans and young guns that are playing excellent lacrosse.”
Picking up a big West Division win tonight will be made even more difficult with the Stealth getting bit by the injury bug in recent weeks. Forward Jeff Zywicki was placed on the injured reserve two games into the season, leaving the team without one of its most potent offensive weapons. Assistant Captain Kyle Sorensen has missed the last two weeks and fellow defenseman Chris McElroy sat out last week with injuries as well. This week, the Stealth also announced it will be without starting goaltender Tyler Richards and All-Star forward Rhys Duch is questionable after both sustained injuries versus Rochester last week.
Despite the injuries, Hall and his coaching staff feel there is plenty of depth on the Stealth roster to overcome this bout with the injury bug.
“Injuries happen in the National Lacrosse League,” said Hall. “We have 23 guys on our roster and we believe every one of them has what it takes to help us win games.”
The Stealth offense has seen contributions from some new faces already this season. Forward Brett Bucktooth was added to the roster two games into the season and has provided a spark to the offense, recording 14 points (6g, 7a) in four games. Athan Iannucci played his first game with the Stealth last week and tallied a goal and two assists despite not practicing with his new teammates. And the Stealth still has one of the game’s best up front in All-Star Lewis Ratcliff, who has 29 points (14g, 15a) this season, including 20 points (11g, 9a) in the last three games.
“This is a huge game for us at this stage of the season,” added Hall. “It’s against a division opponent and a win will give us some momentum going into the second half of the season.”
The Stealth takes on the Minnesota Swarm tonight at the Comcast Arena at Everett. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:45pm. Tickets are available now by calling 877-MY-75-TIX, at the Comcast Arena Box Office, or at www.stealthlax.com.