By Gary Ahuja | NLL.com Staff Writer
Photo Credit Garrett James
Perhaps the key for the Vancouver Stealth is to treat every game as if it is a road game.
The Stealth, winless in four tries this National Lacrosse League season at the Langley Events Centre, opted to stay in a hotel the night before, like they would for a road game.
And the extra team bonding seems to have paid off as the Stealth knocked off the two-time defending NLL champion Saskatchewan Rush by a 13-9 score on Saturday night.
The Stealth improved to 4-6 while Saskatchewan fell to 6-3.
“We came into this game level-headed. Whatever happened in the past, happened in the past,” said goaltender Tye Belanger, the game’s first star with 55 saves.
Belanger also had three assists.
The Rush jumped ahead to a 2-0 lead and led 5-3 after one quarter.
“It was just unfortunate bounces. They got a couple of lucky ones in my mind, in the first quarter,” Belanger said.
By the time the teams went to the locker room for half-time it was a 6-6 game.
Head coach Jamie Batley said the team didn’t panic as they faced an early hole.
“The guys just chipped away and then we got it back to 6-6 and felt great about that and just kept that momentum.”
A wild third quarter saw Vancouver pull ahead 10-7 before the Rush got a pair back to make it a one-goal game.
And in the Stealth’s last three losses, all of the games have been tied in the fourth quarter. But this time, Vancouver did not allow that to happen, instead scoring the only three goals of the frame.
“The key was winning the fourth quarter. We haven’t won many, if any, this year,” Batley said.
“It is nice to give it to the fans. They come out here week after week to support us,” Belanger said.
“It is nice to finally finish one out and celebrate in front of our home fans.”
“We stayed even-keel and stayed to our systems,” Batley said,
And defensively we played well. We didn’t allow shots from where they like to shoot from.”
For the Rush, head coach Derek Keenan said some bad habits from the week before — a game he said they probably didn’t deserve to win — caught up to his squad, which saw its six-game winning streak come to an end.
He pointed out to the fact they gave up six transition goals and shot the ball extremely poorly.
“We just didn’t execute very well,” he said.
“They did exactly what we expected and they made too many mistakes — followed our shots and gave up too much transition and didn’t finish our opportunities.”
Robert Church and Adam Jones led the Rush with two goals apiece and Ben McIntosh (one goal, three assists), Jeff Cornwall (one goal, three assists) and Mark Matthews (four assists) also had big games. Curtis Knight, Ryan Keenan and Adrian Sorichetti also had a goal apiece. Knight and Keenan both finished with two points.
Corey Small and Logan Schuss led the Stealth attack with two goals and three assists apiece while Justin Salt, Joel McCready and Jordan Durston each had two goals. Salt and McCready also had an assist apiece and Cory Conway had a goal and two helpers.
Matt Beers and Rhys Duch rounded out the scoring with a goal and a helper each.
Duch had missed last week with injury and in his absence, Vancouver was held to a season-low eight goals.
“It was really important for me to be out there tonight, even in a minor role,” he said. “It was really tough (watching) last week which is why I knew I wasn’t 100 per cent … but I just wanted to to help.
“You get used to playing in these systems that when you can’t be out there, you feel guilty.”
The Stealth are back in action on March 12 as they visit Denver to face the Colorado Mammoth.