Athan Iannucci tallied three goals and an assist in the Stealth's last game. The offense has averaged 12 goals per game in the last three games (Photo: Richard Olson).
The Washington Stealth returns to action this weekend with its second doubleheader of the 2012 season. The Stealth will face a pair of National Lacrosse League West Division opponents as the team travels to Edmonton to take on the Rush Saturday night, followed by a clash with the Minnesota Swarm back at the Comcast Arena at Everett on Sunday evening.
Lately, every Washington Stealth game has been described as “a big game”: that’s because it’s true. Despite a 3-7 record, the Stealth is in the thick of the playoff race entering the weekend in fourth place in the West Division.
The Stealth has been playing its best lacrosse of the season of late, winning two of its last three including an 11-8 victory over the league-leading Colorado Mammoth the last time the team hit the floor. The recent success has a lot to do with the team having nearly its full roster available for the first time this season.
Goaltender Tyler Richards made his return to the lineup in the win over Colorado, after missing three games due to injury. He allowed a season-low eight goals to the NLL’s second-ranked offense, making 40 saves in the process. Along with the return of assistant captain Kyle Sorensen and veteran defenseman Chris McElroy, the Stealth has held opponents to just nine goals per game over the last three contests.
On offense, the Stealth welcomed back Jeff Zywicki from the injured reserve list three games ago, along with the return of Rhys Duch who missed a pair of games with an injury. The duo joins team points and goals leader Lewis Ratcliff (23g, 20a), Brett Bucktooth (8g, 15a) and Athan Iannucci (6g, 11a), who had a hat trick in his last game. The Stealth offense has averaged 12 goals per game in the last three games, up from 9.2 per game in the previous seven contests.
“We’re finally getting our health back on the roster,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall. “We need to continue to build our cohesion and confidence on both ends of the floor and play hard for 60 minutes every game.”
This weekend, the Stealth has a pair of West Division games that will prove vital in the season standings. Up first is the Edmonton Rush on Saturday night. The Rush handed the Stealth a 16-5 loss back in January. With the teams meeting only twice this season, Saturday’s game could determine a season tiebreaker at year’s end. Plus, Edmonton is just a half-game behind the Stealth in the standings.
“They are a very dangerous team playing at home,” said Hall of his team’s Saturday night opponent. “With two games in a weekend, you can sometimes look ahead to the second game. We have to come in and be focused on Edmonton. Our guys know that.”
The Stealth returns home for game number two. The Minnesota Swarm come to town for the second game of the season series. Much like the Rush, the Swarm has handed the Stealth a big loss at home this season. The Swarm beat the Stealth 15-7 in February. The Swarm currently sits a 5-4 on the season, third place in the West.
“(Minnesota) handed it to us the first time; we owe them one,” said Hall. That first meeting with the Swarm was his first game back with the team after missing the first six while undergoing treatment for cancer. “But we have a lot of respect for the way they play and this is going to be a great game.”
Sunday’s game at the Comcast Arena is also the third annual Pink in the Rink event, this year featuring the “Stick it to Breast Cancer” fundraiser for Providence Comprehensive Breast Center. The fundraiser will feature a silent auction, including game-worn pink Stealth jerseys and numerous other great items from the Stealth and organizations around the Puget Sound region. All of the proceeds from the event will go towards the prevention and treatment of breast cancer in Western Washington.
Tickets for the Pink in the Rink event at the Comcast Arena on March 25 at 4:45pm are on sale now and start at just $7. For more information, call 877-MY-75-TIX or visit www.stealthlax.com.