Next season begins now for the Vancouver Stealth.
The post-season is no longer a possibility meaning the players have three games to play for nothing but pride — and to leave a lasting impression on the coaching staff.
The first of those three games is Friday night in a battle of first and worst at the Langley Events Centre (7:30 p.m.)
The former is the Saskatchewan Rush who are 12-3 while the Stealth are 2-13.
“Every game is big,” said Vancouver goaltender Eric Penney, who began the season on the practice squad before seizing the No. 1 job.Earlier this week, the Stealth released Brodie MacDonald from their active roster, leaving Penney and last year’s starter, Tye Belanger, to try and get a leg up on the top spot for 2019. “There are a lot of people who are working for jobs next year,” Penney said, following the team’s last game, a 13-9 loss on March 31 which eliminated Vancouver from post-season contention.“We just have to keep working hard and play every game like it is a championship game.”
This will the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs with Saskatchewan a perfect 3-0. The Rush lead in both goals scored (213) and goals allowed (160) and have already wrapped up top spot in both the NLL West Division and overall.
No matter the opponent, Stealth head coach Jamie Batley said the team will use these final three games to give the players an opportunity to showcase what they bring to the team.
“We use it to evaluate talent for next year,” he said. “We have guys on the practice roster that have to play — we have to get them in the game somehow.”
The Stealth are wearing special B.C.-themed jerseys for the game, something they do each year and then auction the shirts off with proceeds going to the BCLA Lacrosse on the Move travel grant program. But proceeds will now go instead to the victims of last week’s tragic bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team.
“There wasn’t hesitation at all with our partners, the BC Lacrosse Association and Mike Vanichuk Transport adjusting our recipient of the BC Jersey proceeds this year to the Broncos,” said Stealth president Doug Locker. “The community, team and their families are in all of our thoughts and prayers.”
Sixteen of the 29 victims of the crash died while many others are in serious condition.
Thanks to the annual BC jersey sponsor Mike Vanichuk Transport Co., 100 per cent of the bids will be donated to the fund.
“We are proud to know that our annual jersey sponsorship this year will be going to help Humboldt families,” said Alex Vanichuk, president of the company.