By Gary Ahuja | Staff Writer
Photo Credit Josh Schaefer
Six weeks ago, the Vancouver Stealth looked to be in great shape, winning a pair of road divisional games to start the National Lacrosse League season.
Back-to-back wins in Calgary and Colorado gave the Stealth a leg up on the rest of the West Division.
But since that point, the Stealth have dropped five straight games — the first of which was to Calgary and the last to Colorado — and are in danger of seeing the season slip away.
The Stealth (2-5) are in Calgary (3-3) to face the Roughnecks.mmA win would pull Vancouver to within a half-game of Roughnecks while a loss would drop them 2.5 games behind Calgary.
So is Saturday a must-win?
While a victory is important, Vancouver head coach Jamie Batley would not call it must-win territory.
“We can’t get too far behind (in the standings),” he said. “I think we are moving in the right direction. We can’t let the losses pile up but I am never going to say is a must-win.” The coach likes the fact that his team has improved over the past few weeks and in three of the last four losses, they have been tied in the fourth quarter. “We have made a lot of improvements over the last couple of weekends,” he said. “I know we didn’t (win) but we had really good opportunities, especially in the last one.”
The Stealth and Roughnecks have played twice already with both teams winning on their opponent’s home floor. Calgary is also coming off back-to-back losses for the first time this season.
Batley likes how his team matches up against the Roughnecks but knows the Stealth must eliminate the mistakes if they want to get back on track. “We watched the tape and I think systematically I think we are playing good systems,” he said. “Offensively I really think we need to get to the middle more, that is one thing we are not doing, so we are concentrating on getting to the middle of the floor on offense.”
Tye Belanger has started four of the past five games and is coming off a 43-save performance in last week’s contest.
The Stealth offence has been led by the three-headed attack of Corey Small (17 goals, 31 assists), Rhys Duch (18 goals, 27 assists) and Logan Schuss (18 goals, 18 assists). Small leads the league in points.
For Calgary, Curtis Dickson is the NLL’s top goal-scorer with 22 goals.