Following a wildly unexpected Week 1, two new NLL truisms came to the forefront: 1. If Rhys Duch and Corey Small do not score, the Vancouver Stealth will not win. 2. If Dane Dobbie, Curtis Dickson, Wes Berg, and Tyler Digby don’t score, the Calgary Roughnecks will not win.
For the first time in nearly three full seasons playing together, Vancouver’s dynamic duo went scoreless. In their 51st game together since Corey Small was traded from the Edmonton Rush, neither could find the back of the net, but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort. The two combined for 20 shots on goal, right in the wheelhouse of what their coach, Jamie Batley is expecting.
“Those guys are usually going to get their shots.” Bately stated, “Anywhere over 10 [shots] is what they’re aiming for. We’re trying to aim for over 20% in scoring ratio, sometimes you get a little more and sometimes you get a little less, right now we’re at around 10%.”
If Duch and Small can begin to score like Stealth fans have seen in the past -Small scored 2.5 Goals Per Game (GPG) in 2017 and Duch tallied 2.2 GPG- the team’s scoring ratio will sit closer to what Batley is looking for. However, if they cannot turn it around, the results won’t look pretty for the Stealth. Following the early season trade for Small in 15’, the normally prolific stars have a record of 0-4 when one of the two doesn’t score and now 0-1 when neither put one home.
The Roughnecks, who are arguably coming off one of the team’s worst loses in their 17-year history, will be looking to quickly turn their season around with a strong performance from their offensive core.
Looking back over 10 seasons, there wasn’t a single time in which the Roughnecks lost a game by more than 10+ goals. You would have to go back all the way to the 2006 campaign to see that type of loss. You would also have to go back a long way to see this level, or lack their of, of offensive production; the last time the Roughnecks were held to six goals was in 2008 versus the Colorado Mammoth.
Last weekend marked the first time since the bringing together of Dobbie, Berg, Digby, and Dickson before the 2016 season in which all four did not score. Prior to last Friday’s game, the foursome had played 30 games with at least one of them ruffling the back of the net. In fact, in the 31 games these four have played together, there hadn’t been a game in which only one of them scores let alone a big goose egg.
Roughnecks coach, Curt Malawsky, had plenty to say about his team’s unsatisfactory showing. “We really like the offense that we’ve put together, but, you could definitely see that the guys were out of sync on offense.” Malawsky also mentioned being outplayed by Knighthawks goalie, Matt Vinc, who had an 87% save percentage, as another reason the team couldn’t get on a role offensively.
Generally speaking, these four offensive studs have been a force to be reckoned with over the last two years. They have scored a combined 263 goals when they’re all on the floor, good for an GPG average of 8.4. Furthermore, the four of them had only scored five or fewer goals in three games, with four goals being their lowest total before last weekend.
As one would expect after a 17-6 loss to start the season, Malawsky was not shy to express the feeling in the locker room after the game. “We’ve got proud guys.” Coach said, “I know for a fact the loss isn’t sitting well with them. I know our group; we’ve had conversations. They’re not OK with how things ended up especially from a team standpoint but also from a personal standpoint.”
Both coaches are looking to seize on the opportunity to grab their first win of the 2018 season but understand that the team their facing won’t be the same as the one that struggled in Week 1.
“We prepare for them as if they scored four or five goals.” Batley said of the strategy for facing Dobbie, Dickson, Berg, and Digby despite being shutout last week. “We know that those guys can breakout at any time; they’ve done it against us before. We’re not preparing for them like they had a bad weekend, we’re preparing for them like they each scored four or five goals.”
Malawsky has his focus on hoping that either a strong performance from the defense will spark the offense or vice versa. “It goes without saying, it starts with the goaltender out. Once you get the defensive stops it takes the pressure of the offense, and conversely, if you get a couple goals early, that takes the pressure off the defense. It’s important we get a good start on the front end and a good start on the backend.”
Whatever the outcome, these teams know they need to rebound and are planning accordingly. The history that was made last week for both clubs is something the coaches and players are hoping to push behind them.
It must be said, though, that despite having played only one game this season, if the Stealth and Roughnecks’ primary scorers can’t right the ship, their seasons are potentially at risk of being thrown into chaos even before the calendar turns to 2018.