(Photo: Richard Olson)
The Washington Stealth will play its final game of the 2012 season on Saturday night when the team faces the Buffalo Bandits at the Comcast Arena at Everett. The 2012 season was full of ups and downs for the Stealth (4-11), who looks to end its season with a win in front of the home crowd on “Fan Appreciation Night”.
The Stealth was eliminated from playoff contention last week after a loss to the Toronto Rock and Buffalo’s victory over the Rochester Knighthawks. But Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall and his coaching staff will not use that as an excuse to not play hard this weekend.
“We’ve been playing under a lot of pressure all through the last nine games of the season as we battled for a playoff spot,” said Hall. “But even though this game doesn’t mean anything in the standings, there is still pressure on the players to perform as we evaluate talent for next year. I fully expect the guys to come out and play hard, play with pride as we build towards next season.”
The Stealth faces the Buffalo Bandits (6-9) for the second time this season, having won an 11-10 overtime thriller in Buffalo on February 4. The Bandits currently sit in a tie with the Rochester Knighthawks, and a win would secure the third seed in the East.
In the previous meeting between the teams, Rhys Duch led the Stealth with four goals and four assists, including the game-winning goal in overtime. Duch, the reigning NLL Offensive Player of the Week after a ten-point performance last weekend, leads the Stealth offense this season with 71 points (29g, 42a) in 13 games. Lewis Ratcliff is next on the team’s scoring list with 65 points (29g, 36a).
The NLL’s all-time points leader, 43-year old John Tavares, leads the Bandits offense. Tavares leads the team in goals (38), assists (37) and points (75) through 15 games this season. Forward Luke Wiles, who was traded to the Bandits from the Stealth prior to the start of the 2012 season, has 68 points (38g, 30a) on the year, including a four-goal performance against his former team in February.
In goal for the Bandits is midseason acquisition Anthony Cosmo, who is 2-3 since joining the team with a 12.11 goals against average and .762 save percentage.
On “Fan Appreciation Night”, the Stealth hopes to reward its loyal fans with a performance worthy of the support they have shown throughout the up and down season.
“Our fans have showed us a tremendous amount of support throughout the season,” said Stealth forward Rhys Duch. “Even though the season didn’t go like we hoped, we want to make sure we end the season on a positive note and give our fans something to cheer about.”