Photo: Scott Pierson
EVERETT, Wash—Fighting its way back to the top of the NLL West, the Washington Stealth looks to string together a second consecutive win when the Minnesota Swarm visit Comcast Arena for a home matinee this Sunday, March 3. The NLL West matchup gets underway at 2:45 p.m. PST.
Breaking through the .500 barrier for the third time this season to claim a share of top spot in the West with last week’s 16-14 defeat of Calgary, the Stealth is looking to start the month of March by putting some distance on both the Roughnecks and the rest of the division as it gears-up for a run at the post season.
For the Stealth and Head Coach Chris Hall, Sunday afternoon’s matchup not only gives the team an opportunity to improve its position in the NLL post-season picture but also to avenge its one-goal loss to the Swarm in January.
“It’s in our hands now to continue to play well and stay at the top of the division,” Hall said. “We’re still battling a little bit of consistency issues in terms of putting a string of wins together but I think we’ve got ourselves in a healthy position.”
Tying its season-high production last weekend with 16 scores from nine different players, the Stealth will look to continued output from the full roster along with top gun Rhys Duch to handle the Swarm.
With Duch’s regular season career-high of ten goals (3g, 7a) including last weekend’s eventual game winner, the NLL Offensive Player of the Week not only is moving the needle on the Stealth offense, but opening doors for the rest of the cast.
“Duch is a marquee player in this league,” Hall said. “There have been times when some of our players have struggled offensively, but Duch has been our most consistent player on offense and he has scored some big goals for us.”
With Swarm captain and key transition man Andrew Suitor now out for the season, defense will play prominently for the Stealth in facing an agressive transition game and a more diversified Swarm attack than it saw in January’s one-goal road loss on Minnesota’s home floor.
While most teams carry just a few transition players, the Swarm has seven transition men in the mix accounting for nearly half of the team’s 99 goals.
And five rank in the top ten in Minnesota’s scoring.
“They have a different lineup then most teams in the league,” said Hall. “They have more players that can play pure offense that are also playing transition. Guys like Matisz, Sorensen and MacIntosh can play well out of the back end and can transition the ball extremely well,” he said. “They are also solid threats when they stay out for an entire offensive shift.”
Among Sunday’s offensive challenges is Swarm leading scorer Ryan Benesch. Tallying 18 goals this season, Benesch ranks an NLL fifth with 45 points.
Now back in the lead of its division and looking toward the second half of the season, the Stealth is looking to put more distance between itself and the rest of the pack.
And to get there, it will need to stay out of the trainer’s room.
Heading into the final seven games with a healthy roster at his disposal, Hall is confident that the team is poised to play its best lacrosse down the stretch.
“One of the keys for us was being injury free through the course of our first nine games,” Hall said.
“Coaches always want their full roster available to them and I think over the nine games we’ve had that sporadically. (This weekend) we’ll have everybody available again,” he said. “We seem to be pretty healthy.”
Another confidence builder was Friday’s addition of NLL veteran goaltender Matt Roik who was brought on in a back-up role to starter Tyler Richards.
“We’re always trying to better our position as we make a drive to the playoffs,” said Hall who platooned Roik with Richards during the 2010 and 2011 seasons where Washington made back-to-back appearances in the NLL championship game.
In goal, Richards, who ranks among the NLL leaders in wins, saves and GAA, has been unbeatable at home, posting a perfect 3-0 record.
In 2013, the Stealth has been the team to beat at home posting a league-best 3-1 record at Comcast Arena. In its three home victories, the Stealth average 14 goals-per-game while holding opponents to a stingy 10.67.
A win this weekend would go a long way for the Stealth who now begin its “March” towards the post season.
“It’s about sticking to what our coaches have laid out for us,” Richards said. “Really believing in it and following it. The rest will take care of itself from there.”
NLL WEEK 9
Game: Minnesota Swarm (3-5) at Washington Stealth (5-4)
Date: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Time: 2:45 p.m. PST
Location: Comcast Arena- Everett, Wash.
Webcast: The Lacrosse Network available at www.stealthlax.com
With his ten-point performance last week, Rhys Duch surpassed former teammate Jeff Zywicki (2006-12) as the franchise’s second leading scorer with 395 points. With five or more points in Sunday’s contest the Victoria native can notch his 400th career point.
At 396 goals, forward Lewis Ratcliff is only four shy of his 400th career NLL goal. This is the fourth season in Washington for the Ohio State Buckeye where he has scored 139 of his goals.
Rhys Duch’s Offensive Player of the Week honor was the seventh NLL Player Award for the Stealth this season. In Week 1, Cliff Smith (offensive), Mitch McMichael (transition) and Kyle Buchanan (rookie) won Player of the Week awards. In Week 2, Smith (offensive) was honored for the second consecutive week. And in Week 6 McMichael (transition) was tapped for the second time this season along with Stealth goaltender Tyler Richards (defensive).
The Stealth bolstered their lineup with Friday’s acquisition of goaltender Matt Roik. It’s the second tour of duty on the Stealth for the 11-year NLL veteran. Roik, who will wear his old #33, played for the Stealth in their two NLL championship game appearances in 2010 and 2011, winning it all in 2010.
Following Sunday’s matinee, the Stealth and their fans are jumping on the “Harlem Shake” bandwagon with a “Shake” of their own at Comcast Arena. During last weekend’s practice session, Stealth players were caught on video practicing their own “Harlem Shake” moves before Coach Chris Hall took the floor bringing order to practice. The video is at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=AE4BqQ5m8fI
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