Photo: Henry Valentine
EVERETT, Wash. – With just four weeks remaining in the NLL regular season, the Washington Stealth’s magic number to clinch a post-season berth is down to just one.
With a home win over the Calgary Roughnecks this Saturday, or either a Colorado Mammoth or Minnesota Swarm loss, the Stealth will make the NLL playoffs for the third time in four years.
For Stealth head coach Chris Hall, a win against rival Calgary this weekend would build momentum toward a home-floor advantage – and a potential Champion’s Cup run. Familiar territory for Hall.
“Anytime you have the opportunity to clinch a playoff spot this early in the season it’s always special,” said Hall who has made three career appearances in the NLL Champion's Cup, taking Washington to the title game in both 2010, where his squad won it all, and 2011. He previously guided the Roughnecks to the league title in 2004.
“To clinch this weekend at home in front of our fans on “Pink in The Rink” night would be special and it would give us some breathing room to fine tune some things as we head into the playoffs.”
Under the NLL post-season format, eight teams qualify for the playoffs with the possibility of the fifth ranked team in the West crossing over to the East Division for the duration of the playoffs should its record be better than that of the fourth ranked East Division team.
In the West, Edmonton at 8-5 is in the lead, followed by Washington and Calgary, both at 7-5, in second spot. Minnesota is next at 4-7 with Colorado on the bottom at 4-8.
By hitting its magic number, which could come as early as Friday should Minnesota lose it’s game to Philadelphia, the Stealth would be guaranteed a post-season berth and an opportunity to win its way into Champions Cup game.
Regardless of Friday’s outcome the Stealth will control its own destiny on Saturday as it faces West Division rival Calgary at the Comcast Arena.
The game between the two 7-5 teams gets underway at 6:45 p.m.
A win against the Roughnecks would not only lock-up a playoff spot, but would also give Washington the regular season tie breaker against Calgary, which could set up a home-floor advantage.
It’s a challenge that won’t come easily though, as the Stealth fought hard for a 16-14 home win over Calgary late in February and trail 17-12 in its all-time series with the Alberta team.
“Calgary is a formidable opponent. It’s a giant game for us,” Hall said. “The good news is we’re playing them at home with a chance to clinch a playoff spot and clinch the season series.”
With either a win on Saturday or a Colorado or Minnesota loss, the Stealth would be the fourth NLL team to clinch a playoff berth this season. Along with Toronto, which at 8-4 is the first place team in the East, Washington could join Edmonton and Calgary, which both secured post-season spots last week, as teams to clinch early on.
Philadelphia, the second-place team in the east at 5-5, is the only other team with the opportunity to secure a spot this weekend. The Wings will need victories against both the Minnesota and Colorado on the road.
For tickets to Saturday’s game at Comcast Arena call 877-MY-75-TIX or visit www.stealthlax.com ... Washington Stealth… I t’s like hockey with balls.
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