The Washington Stealth (4-4) host the division-leading Calgary Roughnecks (5-3) at Comcast Arena on Saturday at 10pm ET. (Photo: Richard Olson)
The Washington Stealth (4-4) host the Calgary Roughnecks (5-3) at Comcast Arena on Saturday at 10 p.m. ET for the first of three meetings between the top two teams in the West Division. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
“We’ve always thought Calgary was one of the marquee teams in the league,” said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. “They have been year after year. They’re playing well. They got off to a little bit of a slow start but have been on fire ever since.”
Calgary currently has a one-game lead in the standings, but Washington can tie them with a win this weekend.
“They’ve got one of the world-class goaltenders in net with Tyler Richards,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “He’s a tough guy to beat. I know they are playing a version of the pressure defense – they’ve got some big athletes in the back end and again, like most teams in the NLL, they aren’t afraid to push the transition game. When they do get it up front, they’ve got some big time shooters and they’ve got some complimentary players as well.”
The Roughnecks swept the Stealth in 2012 by winning all three games. During their last meeting in Washington, Calgary won 12-11 in a game that featured 192 combined penalty minutes. The Roughnecks have had discipline problems so far this season and will try to correct them this weekend.
“When you play that aggressive defense, you take penalties,” Malawsky said. “We can handle those ones but it’s the undisciplined ones – hitting a guy after a whistle, the dead ball fouls – selfish penalties that put the team out. We have been shorthanded 60 times this year. It’s unacceptable and there is going to be something done here and someone will be held accountable.”
Roughnecks defenseman Scott Carnegie agreed with his head coach about the undisciplined play.
“We have a problem there and that needs to get corrected,” he said. “We want to play 5-on-5. That’s our game. [Washington] has some dangerous shooters and a potent offense, so that’ll kill us if we don’t stay disciplined.”
Last weekend, the Stealth dropped a divisional game to the Edmonton Rush by a score of 15-10 to return to .500 for the second time this season.
The Stealth will need a bounceback performance on both ends of the floor, particularly on defense, as they will face the NLL’s most dangerous offense in the Roughnecks, who are averaging over 14 goals per game.
“Calgary is a team that is capability of scoring a lot of goals,” said Stealth forward Rhys Duch. “They are well-coached and have a lot of firepower. Going into this game, if we don’t come in 100 percent, then [we] could end up on the wrong side of things.”
After keeping teams to seven or fewer goals over the previous two weekends, Richards gave up 15 goals to the Rush, but in his defense, he had to face a whopping 61 shots.
On offense, the Stealth were kept relatively quiet with the exception of Duch, who scored a season-high four goals and added four assists on the night. Athan Iannucci added two goals and was the only Stealth player besides Duch to score more than once.
Calgary split their two-game road weekend last week, as they lost to the Toronto Rock 17-12 on Friday before holding on for a 17-16 win against the Minnesota Swarm on Saturday despite more discipline problems.
Roughnecks transition player Geoff Snider was ejected from both games and was suspended one game for an elbowing incident against the Swarm, but he has appealed the suspension and is eligible to play this weekend against his younger brother, Stealth transition player Bob Snider.
The Snider brothers are two of the best faceoffmen in the league and Bob credits Geoff for teaching him some of the tricks of the trade.
“He's always been a great outlet to learn from,” Bob Snider said. “He actually helped me out quite a bit in college, not so much anymore since we compete against one another.”
This game will mark the beginning to the second half of the season for both Calgary and Washington as they are both eight games into their schedules. The teams will play one another three times over the last eight games of 2013 so their season series could become an important tiebreaker down the stretch.