By Gary Ahuja / NLL.com Correspondent
One game doesn’t make or break a season, but the Vancouver Stealth’s early season performance will go a long way towards determining whether or not they return to the National Lacrosse League post-season in 2017.
The Stealth have not made the playoffs in three years and if they want to reverse that trend, the team will need to come out of the gate with a relatively strong month of January.
Vancouver opens the season with back-to-back road games, Friday night in Calgary at the Scotiabank Saddledome against the Roughnecks and then Saturday night in Colorado at the Pepsi Center against the Mammoth.
“It is going to be tough, especially the second day; we are flying out at 6 in the morning with not many hours of sleep,” said Vancouver coach Jamie Batley.
“But we sort of made our training camp in tune to the first weekend, where we had Saturday-Sunday events, so maybe guys were a little bit more in tuned to this weekend.”
The consecutive games kick off a busy stretch as the team plays six games — with two sets of back-to-back games — in a 23-day span. That amounts to one-third of the team’s 18-game schedule.
But Batley is confident his team is up to the challenge in his first full season behind the bench.
“One of the focuses was to change the culture a little bit — no disrespect to anybody else — but just refocus the players,” he said.
“It is really easy after not making the playoffs the last couple of years to just relax a little bit. The culture had to be changed a little bit and we did that. The guys responded in a very positive way and they are in tune to the instructions of the coaches now and we seem to be on a very good path.”
This team fits the aggressive, running style the coach likes to employ.
“We are built to run and we are going to have to utilize that,” Batley said about the importance of capitalizing on the team’s transition chances.