Stealth Captain Kyle Sorensen (center) in action versus Edmonton, Sunday at home. For the first time as NLL competitors, Sorensen faces-off with his younger brother Brock, a Rush rookie, in Friday's contest in Edmonton. (Photo: Brad Husick)
EVERETT, Wash. – The NLL West Division leading Washington Stealth take to the road Friday and Saturday with games against divisional rivals Edmonton Rush and Minnesota Swarm.
Friday’s 6 p.m. PST contest against the Rush at Edmonton’s Rexall Place and Saturday’s 5 p.m. PST matchup with the Swarm at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul are expected to set the tone for a West Division race that will only heat up through the meat of the NLL season.
Both games are webcast live on The NLL on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network available at www.StealthLAX.com.
Just three games into the 2013 campaign, Washington at 2-1 owns a half-game lead in the West on both Colorado and Edmonton, while the Swarm is a full game back and Calgary trails by a game-and-a-half.
“It’s already a tight race and (Edmonton and Minnesota) are divisional opponents,” said Washington Stealth forward Athan Iannucci, who netted two goals in the Stealth’s 18-10 home loss last Sunday to the Rush.
“At the end of the season there are always a couple of teams that are scrambling for a couple wins. We’d like to get them now so that we don’t have to worry about it when the season starts to come to an end,” said Iannucci.
Among the keys to rebounding against Edmonton on Friday – and the series, will be overcoming an Edmonton defense that virtually had its way with the Stealth at home last Sunday.
“They are a tough defense and we are going to have to capitalize,” said Iannucci who is averaging just over a goal and nearly two assists per game this season.
On offense, Iannucci, along with Rhys Duch, who has three hat tricks in each of the Stealth’s three games, have both been stellar.
But it’s the sticks of left side forwards Lewis Ratcliff, Cliff Smith and Dean Hill that will need to come alive to put the Stealth on top this weekend. After combining for 16 of Washington’s 30 goals in its opening two contests, the three felt the brunt of the Rush defenders on Sunday.
Another key to the weekend contests will be special teams play, said Stealth General Manager Doug Locker.
“One of our focuses for this weekend is that we’d rather play five-on-five then play a man short,” said Locker. “We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box and do a better job with that. Hopefully the familiarity with playing them six days ago will help.”
On Friday, the Stealth will need to contain Rush rookie forward Mark Matthews who has scored at least three goals in each of his first two NLL games. The first overall pick in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft proved to be a game changer on Sunday netting four goals and five assists.
Confident that his squad can continue its winning ways both against Edmonton and Minnesota, Locker is approaching the weekend’s double header with the same academic intensity that helped carry his squad to two NLL title games in the last three seasons.
“We look for positives on everything and I think we’ve identified some of the issues that we want to work on this coming weekend and we’ll have some time when we get to Edmonton to try and hammer that stuff out,” said Locker.
On Saturday, the Stealth shifts its attention and location to Minnesota where it will prepare for another West rival in the Minnesota Swarm.
In each of the last two seasons, the Swarm has gotten the better of the Stealth, winning two out of three games in each campaign.
For the Stealth, the good news is its single win against the Swarm in 2012 came on the tail-end of a similar weekend double header with a 20-13 decision at Comcast Arena. And since moving to Washington state, the Stealth are 5-2 all-time on the trailing game of two-game sets.
“They’re a young team, they’ve drafted well the last couple of years,” said Iannucci, “I think they are going to be a young fast team.”
Saturday’s contest will mean containing the Swarm's young guns in first round draft selections Brock Sorensen, the second overall pick in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft out of Ohio State, Kiel Matisz, the third pick out of Robert Morris, along with number-four pick Shayne Jackson from Limestone College.
Sorensen, the younger brother of Stealth Captain Kyle Sorensen, produced a healthy five loose balls and two penalty minutes in the Swarm’s only game thus far in the 2013 season, a 13-12 loss to Buffalo on January 12, while Matisz tallied an assist and six loose balls and Jackson netted three goals and an assist.
NLL Week 4
Game 1: Washington Stealth (2-1) v. Edmonton Rush (1-1)
Date: Friday, January 25, 2013
Time: 6:00 p.m. PT
Location: Rexall Place – Edmonton, Alberta
Webcast: The Lacrosse Network available at www.StealthLAX.com
Game 2: Washington Stealth (2-1) v. Minnesota (0-1)
Date: Saturday, January 26, 2013
Time: 5:00 p.m. PT
Location: Xcel Energy Center – St. Paul, Minn.
Webcast: The Lacrosse Network available at www.StealthLAX.com
Stealth forward Dean Hill tallied his 100th career goal in Sunday’s home loss to Edmonton. Hill can surpass the century mark with a goal in either Friday or Saturday night’s contest.
With playing time on either Friday or Saturday, Stealth defender and former Edmonton Rush Captain Chris McElroy will notch his 100th career game in the NLL.
On Saturday, Stealth goalkeeper Nick Patterson will play against his former team Minnesota for the first time since being released by the Rush after the first game of the 2012 season. A former NLL All-Star, Patterson has appeared in 101 career NLL games with a 38-30 record.
With playing time on both Friday and Saturday, Stealth defender Curtis Hodgson is positioned to equal the Stealth all-time record for 132 games played. Gary Rosyski, who played for the franchise from 2000-08 in Albany and San Jose is the current record holder.
Stealth Captain Kyle Sorensen will go head-to-head for the first time in the NLL with his younger brother Brock in Saturday’s contest against Minnesota. Both Sorensens were selected as the second overall pick in their respective NLL Entry Drafts.
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