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Back in BC: Stealth hosting Swarm for long-awaited home opener

01/08/2014, 1:00am EST
By Kyle Donen & Brent Hollerud for NLL.com

New era begins with Vancouver's first game at the LEC against Minnesota

Vancouver Stealth (0-1) host Minnesota Swarm (0-1) for their home opener at Langley Events Centre on Saturday at 10pm ET. (Photo: Dan Brodie)

The Vancouver Stealth (0-1) will begin a new era with their official return to British Columbia when they host the Minnesota Swarm (0-1) at Langley Events Centre on Saturday at 10 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network by clicking here.

“It’s going to be an exciting night for all of us,” said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. “It has been a long time coming with getting lacrosse back to the lower mainland so we’re all very excited to get going.”

The Stealth didn’t get off to the start they were looking for last weekend, falling 13-12 to the Colorado Mammoth in their 2014 season debut.

“A couple of defensive slips, a goal off a faceoff and the two goal lead we worked so hard to get slipped away quickly,” said Coach Hall.

“Pretty good effort on our first night but ultimately, one that slipped away.”

There were some positives to take away however, including solid games from rookies Tyler Digby and Cody Bremner who both scored their first career NLL goal. Digby is off to a great start in his NLL career scoring 3 goals and 3 assists in his first career NLL game.

“I think our team is growing and it’s a loss that will help us,” said Stealth rookie Tyler Digby.

“There were a lot of runs but we showed a lot of grit being down 3-1 early.”

Another newcomer to the team this year was forward Alex Gajic who tallied a game high 8 points (1 goal, 7 assists) in his first game in a Stealth uniform.

The Swarm are coming off a loss in their first weekend of 2014 action as well, losing 8-6 to last year’s Champion's Cup winners, the Rochester Knighthawks.

This will be the one and only meeting of the regular season between these two teams after playing each other three times in 2013. The Swarm moved into the East Division after playing in the West last year.

The Stealth went 1-2 against the Swarm last season but the excitement of the Stealth’s first home game at the LEC should also provide some more energy to the home team. Stealth captain Kyle Sorensen will have a little something extra to play for when these two teams meet, as his younger brother, Brock, plays for the Swarm.

Brock may have a few inches in size on his older brother, but when it comes to experience there is no comparison; Kyle’s in his eighth season in the NLL and Brock just finished his rookie year in 2013. However, the battle of brothers will be just one of many storylines to watch for in Saturday’s game as the excitement continues to build.

“There are a lot of BC guys on the team and we’re all excited to be able to play in front of friends and family and bring back lacrosse to BC,” said Digby.

In their season opener on Dec. 28, the Swarm held the two-time defending Rochester Knighthawks to only eight goals, but struggled to score themselves, resulting in a tightly-fought 8-6 defeat at the Blue Cross Arena.  Minnesota used a strong third quarter to grab a late 6-5 lead, but the Knighthawks utilized the fourth-quarter heroics of Joel McCready to turn the tables and clinch the game for Rochester.

“You have to get more than six goals in this league to even think about winning a game, or even winning a half,” coach Joe Sullivan said of his team’s opening night performance.  “I thought the game was there for us to take and we just didn’t rise to the occasion.”

Despite the loss, there were a handful of notable performances from the Swarm.  Rookie forwards Logan Schuss (No. 1 overall) and Scott Jones (No. 7 overall) each tallied their first NLL points, with Schuss netting a goal and an assist and Jones earning an assist.  Transition player Tyler Hass showed his skill in transition scoring a pair of markers, while F Callum Crawford had a three-point game (1g, 2a). Goaltender Tyler Carlson was solid between the pipes, turning aside 26 shots.

Swarm captain T Andrew Suitor saw his first game action after returning from an ACL injury sustained last February.  Suitor had a goal overturned by a crease violation and corralled nine loose balls.

Minnesota is entering this weekend’s action coming off of their first off-week of the season, a fact that Sullivan admits could prove to be beneficial to his team.

“It really gives me a chance to prep my guys, not only on what’s coming up but what we just came out of,” Sullivan explains. “I’d rather us be able to take a challenge like Rochester early, be able to sit back and review it, relish and understand it a bit and then get ready for week three.”

Saturday might represent an opportunity for both squads to get their first win of 2014, but for the Stealth it also represents the beginning of a new chapter.  After falling in the 2013 Champion’s Cup Final, it was announced that the Stealth would relocate to a new home in Vancouver after a four-year tenure in Washington, one that saw them reach the finals three times, including a championship in 2010.

While the Vancouver crest on their uniforms may be new, the Stealth (9-7 in 2013) are a team stocked with veterans and returners from their runner-up campaign a year ago.  Led by their 2013 leading scorers F Rhys Duch (45g, 51a) and F Lewis Ratcliff (31g, 36a), Vancouver boasts an offense improved by the offseason acquisition of the brotherly duo F Alex Gajic and T Ilija Gajic from Colorado. Alex Gajic mustered an eight-point night (1g, 7a) during the Stealth’s 13-12 opening-night loss at Colorado on Jan. 4, while rookie Tyler Digby put up a hat trick and three assists in his NLL debut.

The Swarm won the season series 2-1 over the Stealth in 2013, thanks to a 12-5 rubber-match victory on March 16 at Xcel Energy Center.  Saturday is the only matchup between the Swarm and Stealth this season, due to Minnesota’s move to the East Division.  Sullivan believes that even with Vancouver’s offensive weapons, his current team has what it takes to slow them down.

“You give anybody a good opportunity in our league, and it’s probably going to end up in the net,” Sullivan said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us to shut them off but we have definitely shown that our defense is up to it.”

Missing from the Swarm’s this lineup this weekend will be rookie D Jason Noble, who will be serving a one-game suspension for a cross-check during the final preseason game against Calgary. Noble will be eligible to return to action Jan. 18 at Philadelphia.

Fans are also encouraged to join the Pre-Game Festival in the LEC Fieldhouse prior to the game at 4 p.m. PT.

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