February 1, 2013 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Washington Stealth
EVERETT, Wash - The Washington Stealth look to build on its West Division leading January start when it faces off for the second time this season against the defending NLL champion Rochester Knighthawks, Saturday in New York.
After setting a healthy tone with a 3-2 record to open the season, the Stealth will look for its second win against the Knighthawks in Saturday's road game against the New York club. The contest gets underway 5 p.m. PST at Rochester's Blue Cross Arena and is webcast live on the NLL on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network available at www.stealthlax.com .
With a split under its belt in last week's road trip against the Edmonton Rush and Minnesota Swarm, the Stealth will rely on an offensive unit now flirting with the 13.18 average goals per game that it saw in its 2010 championship season, to combat a Rochester squad eager for its first win.
"I'm pretty happy with where we are right now," said Hall, "We're trying to build on the good stuff we've been doing and clean up the mistakes we've been making along the way."
With a game in hand over most of the league, Hall's offense leads the NLL with 66 scores, averaging 13.2 goals-per-game. Only West-rival Calgary averages more with 14.5.
The tone is being set by transition man Bob Snider, who is leading the NLL with 104 faceoff wins, along with high-producing forward Rhys Duch.
Duch, who leads the NLL with 14 goals, has been key to the Stealth attack contributing 13 assists to rank third on the NLL leaderboard with 27 points.
"(Duch) is playing fantastic. He's one of the best offensive guys in the league if not the best," said Snider. Ranking third on the NLL leaderboard with 27 points, Duch has also tallied 13 assists to help fuel the Stealth offense. "He's taking on a leadership role this year and he's honed it," said Snider.
In Saturday's rematch with the Knighthawks, others that are expected to contribute are traditional big-number men Lewis Ratcliff and Dean Hill along with Cliff Smith who is settling in nicely to a focused role with the Stealth offense.
After being held to just five goals in his first three games, Ratcliff came alive during last weekend's double-header, registering a hat trick in both Friday's win over Edmonton and Saturday's loss to Minnesota. And with the six-goal, six assist weekend, he has climbed into the fifth spot league wide in goals. Along with Duch, the two are delivering just over a third of Stealth goal-production in the first third of the season.
But it's Smith and rookie Kyle Buchanan that should also be a challenge for the Knighthawks on Saturday and other opponents along the way.
With goals in all but one game and points in all five contests this season, Smith has moved into the number-five position in NLL points with 22 (9g, 13a).
And Buchanan is adding a new dimension as a playmaker to the Washington offense.
Hitting four assists in his NLL debut against Rochester in early January, the sixth-round NLL Entry Draft selection out of Nepean, Ontario, has continued to deliver key passes. Dealing out 14 assists over the first five games, Buchanan leads the team and ranks sixth in the NLL in assists.
Between the pipes, the Stealth's number-one goaltender Tyler Richards is back in good health and expected to be a difference maker on Saturday.
After missing two games earlier in the season, Richards played in both games last weekend. He was instrumental on Friday in Washington's come-from-behind victory in Edmonton and managed to keep the team within striking distance of the Swarm the following night.
Coming into Saturday's game, the Knighthawks have struggled with an 0-3 record after its Champions Cup title a year ago. Managing to score just 10.67 goals-per-game while allowing a fifth-best 12.67 goals-per-game, Hall is still expecting a tough contest against a team hungry for their first win.
"The first game we played Casey Powell wasn't in the lineup so obviously they are going to have a little different look there," said Hall. "They're starting to mesh and they've had three games together with Dan (Dawson), Casey and the other new guys in that offense."
Along with Powell, who after missing the opener, got off to a hot start scoring two goals and four assists in his return to the lineup against Buffalo, the Stealth will also need to contend with veteran left-hander Cody Jamieson.
Coming off his best game of the season last weekend with a hat trick and two assists and scoring five points in all three games this season including a one goal and four assists in the season opener, Hall will need to find a way to contain Jamieson and other Knighthawks forwards eagerly looking for a break-out game.
"They've got a ton of fire power and we know that and they're pretty well balanced on both sides so you can't really concentrate on one of two guys there you've really got to understand that anybody on the floor can kill you," said Hall.
For the Stealth, Saturday's matchup is an important mid-season test as they cling to just a half game lead over a 2-2 Calgary squad in the West Division.
NLL Week 5 Game: Washington Stealth (3-2) v. Rochester Knighthawks (0-3) Date: Saturday, February 2, 2013 Time: 5:00 p.m. PST Location: Blue Cross Arena- Rochester, NY Webcast: The Lacrosse Network available at www.StealthLAX.com
LAX Shorts If defenseman Curtis Hodgson plays in Saturday's game he will break the franchise record for the Stealth previously set by Gary Rosyski. Currently Hodgson and Rosyski are tied at 132 games played.
Saturday's game in Rochester is the first of two trips the Stealth will make to the East Coast this season. The next is March 9 when the team travels to Philadelphia. One month into the NLL season the Stealth are in great shape with a 3-2 record and a lead in the West Division. Already shaping up to be a close race into the second half, the West has every team within one game of the Stealth, with Calgary just a half-game back at 2-2 while the Colorado, Minnesota and Edmonton all sit at 1-2.
Stealth transition man Bob Snider leads the NLL in faceoffs won with 104. The 6-0, 205 pound native of Calgary is setting the tone for the Stealth offense, gaining control of the ball 71 percent of the time.
Five games into the 2013 season, the Stealth are proving to be one of the elite offenses in the NLL averaging just over 13 goals per game. The second-best goal producing in the NLL is a result of the hot sticks of veteran forwards Rhys Duch and Lewis Ratcliff. With 14 goals, Duch leads the NLL in goals and ranks third in the league in points with 27 so far this season. He has registered a hat trick in four of the first five games including his squad's season-opening win over the Knighthawks where he finished with three goals and three assists.