The Vancouver Stealth (4-4) scored early and often in winning their third-consecutive home game. The Stealth scored on their first two shots and had tallied a dozen goals by halftime — just a goal below their season average for goals per game — en route to a convincing 21-15 victory over the visiting Minnesota Swarm in National Lacrosse League action.
The two teams were playing on Saturday night at the Langley Events Centre with the win improving the Stealth to 4-4 while the Swarm fell to 3-5 on the season.
The clubs tied for the worst record in the NLL in 2014 at 4-14.
“As an offensive player, you want to get those early ones because you want to feel good about your shot,” said the Stealth’s Corey Small, who had four goals and nine points.
The Swarm were a bit hamstrung as one of their goaltenders, Brodie MacDonald missed the game for personal reason. The team was forced to dress a forward as the back-up, meaning the coaching staff couldn’t switch goalies when Zach Higgins let in his first two shots and seven in the opening quarter.
The Swarm entered the game allowing 13.4 goals per game.
“Tough situation for them because usually when you get a couple of quick ones, you have the ability to pull the goalie and give him a few minutes to breath and think about what’s going on there before putting him back out there,” Small said. “We took advantage of it. We knew we had them (shaken) a little bit at the beginning and there were no bad shots from then on.”
The Stealth led 12-6 at the half with both teams scoring nine goals in the second half for the 21-15 final score.
“We didn’t quit, but you can’t play any team in this league and give up those kinds of leads at the half and expect to do good things,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “Too many good teams that are too well coached to be able to come in and turn the game around.”
The coach said the team has struggled with inconsistency and that is something they need to address as the season approaches the second half. Being down two goals in the first 85 seconds is a less than ideal way to start a game, especially on the road.
“Those two goals right away, especially on the road, they take you right out of the game and make you re-think things,” Sullivan said.
Stealth head coach Dan Perreault said his team knew what to expect against Minnesota.
“They put a lot of pressure on you and run so our game plan was that we match their feet,” he said. “In other words, we are running with them. They are a good transition team and they put pressure on you so we moved the ball and didn’t get trapped too many times.”
Small said the Stealth’s array of offensive options is paying dividends as the other team can’t simply focus on stopping the team’s one main option.
In addition to Small’s nine points — he had 32 points in five games since joining the team — the Stealth had five other players with five or more points.
Tyler Digby (5+3), Joel McCready (4+4), Rhys Duch (2+5), Cliff Smith (3+3) and Johnny Powless (0+5) also had big games. Ilija Gajic and Conrad Chapman had a goal and an assist apiece and even goaltender Tyler Richards got into the action, scoring into an empty-net. He also had two assists and finished with 44 saves.
The Swarm were led by Logan Schuss (3+5), Miles Thompson (1+5), Shayne Jackson (2+3) and Shane MacDonald (3+1). Digby, Small and Schuss were the three stars.
And Digby was happy to have a better performance than the week before, when the Stealth lost 16-13 in Calgary.
“I looked back on the game film and I felt I could have definitely contributed a bit more last week,” he said. “I wanted to come out and have a good night.”
“When you move the ball, it makes it really easy to play offence,” he added.
Both teams have a bye next week before returning to action in Week 11. The Stealth will be in Edmonton while Minnesota hosts New England.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Tyler Digby
2) Corey Small
3) Logan Schuss.
By Gary Ahuja (@VanStealthBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Garrett James.