NLL Week 3 Team Reports: ‘We’ve been pretty smart back there and that’s been a big improvement.’ – Stealth coach Chris Hall

Athan Iannucci, left, and the Stealth offense appear to be firing on all cylinders so far this season. (Photo: Dan Brodie)
Athan Iannucci, left, and the Stealth offense appear to be firing on all cylinders so far this season. (Photo: Dan Brodie)

No team has played more than 2 games this National Lacrosse League season so there’s plenty yet to be sorted. But has any team looked as strong after 2 games than the Washington Stealth? Coach Chris Hall says it’s an improved lacrosse IQ that’s been the biggest difference and after 2 games, it’s quite clear that the Stealth are a team on a mission. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Pride is a huge motivator in a lot of walks of life, and that includes athletic endeavors. So when the Stealth dropped the season they did last year, there’s no doubt that it’s been a big motivator for 2013. Will they move to 3-0 after this weekend’s tilt with Edmonton? Time will tell. In the meantime, let’s catch up with all the teams playing this weekend.

SATURDAY

Philadelphia Wings at Toronto Rock
Saturday, January 19 -Air Canada Centre - 7 p.m. (EST)

Records: Wings 1-0; Rock 2-0
Broadcast: TSN2 in Canada, Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia, ESPN3 in U.S., YouTube outside of North America.
Last week: Wings defeated Bandits, 13-8; Rock defeated Roughnecks 13-11 on Saturday; Rock defeated Rush 10-9 on Sunday.
History: Rock lead all-time series, 22-12 (11-5 in Toronto)
Goals for: Toronto 23 (2nd); Philadelphia 13 (tied for 4th)
Goals against: Toronto 20 (tied for 6th); Philadelphia 8 (1st)
Scoring leaders: Toronto — Garrett Billings (2-8), Colin Doyle (0-10); Philadelphia — Jordan Hall (1-6), Kevin Buchanan (3-3).
League leaders: Doyle (10 assists), Toronto G Nick Rose (2 wins, 89 saves); Philadelphia G Brandon Miller (8.00 goals-against)

Wings notes

A combined 4 goals and 13 assists was pretty much what GM and coach Johnny Mouradian when he rebuilt the left side. Kevin Buchanan (3-3), Jordan Hall (1-6) and Kevin Ross (0-4) — all newcomers to the team — have helped to restore the production, and balance. “It was nice to see,” said Mouradian. “Toward the end of last year, we were somewhere near 35 goals under what we needed.” But Friday’s win was about a 5% improvement, Mouradian said, “so it appears we’ve closed that gap.” … D Brett Manney liked the flow of Friday’s game and said the team showed great strides, but there’s a big test Saturday in Toronto. “They were ready to go with 2 big wins. They have a veteran offense with so many capable scorers and veterans on defense that does its job very well.” … So what is the predominantly American roster out to show this season in Philadelphia? “There’s a little bit of a chip on our shoulder,” said Manney. “But at the end of the day, we’re out to be the best team. We’re not worried about individuals. We all just want to win a championship.”

Rock notes

A 2-0 road trip against 2 solid clubs has GM and assistant coach Terry Sanderson happy, to put it mildly. “We’re obviously very pleased with the effort the guys put forth,” he said. “It was a tough run, going back-to-back.” … That said, he said the Rock will be prepared for a much different Philadelphia team. “I like what Philadelphia has done down there with the changes they’ve made. I think it’s a different brand of lacrosse than what we’re used to playing. The changes they have made will keep everyone honest and you have to prepare a bit differently.” … G Nick Rose made a combined 89 saves in those games to be named Defensive Player of the Week. “Our defense gave up the shots that we want to give up,” he said. “We went into 2 hostile environments and battled through it.” … Rose said the Wings are like any other team in the NLL: Tough to prepare for. “They’re going to make you pay you when you make mistakes. Philadelphia’s speed and size can create mismatches, we just can’t make mistakes, they are a very opportunistic team.” … Sanderson said D Damon Edwards is waiting for a doctor’s report on the status of his apparent hamstring injury that forced him to miss time last weekend. Damon’s status, along with F Brandon Ivey, against the Wings won’t be known until game time.

saturday

Buffalo Bandits at Rochester Knighthawks
Saturday, January 19 -Blue Cross Arena - 7:30 p.m. (EST)

Records: Knighthawks (0-1); Bandits (1-1)
Broadcast: YouTube.
Last week: Knighthawks did not play; Bandits lost to Philadelphia 13-8 on Friday; defeated Minnesota 13-12 on Saturday.
Series: Knighthawks lead all-time series, 26-19 (16-8 in Rochester)
Goals for: Rochester 12 (tied for 6th); Buffalo 21 (3rd)
Goals against: Rochester 13 (tied for 3rd); Buffalo 25 (tied for 9th)
Scoring leaders: Rochester — Cody Jamieson (1-4), Johnny Powless (2-3); Buffalo — John Tavares (3-4), Shawn Williams (2-5).
League leaders: none.

Knighthawks notes

Coach Mike Hasen liked the way Rochester played early in its game against the Stealth 2 weeks ago, but there were issues in the second half. “We played well in spots but in the second half we lost our composure and made some mistakes on the defensive end.” … D Mike Kirk said it’s a matter of sticking to the principles. “We were spread out and weren’t helping each other,” he said. “And Washington capitalized on our mistakes.” … F Casey Powell is ready to and Hasen said he should be “good to go.” … Part of keeping the composure, as Kirk said, is to not get caught up in the banner raising ceremony before the game. “It was a great accomplishment, but that was last year and we’ve all moved on,” said Kirk. “We’ll take that banner and that moment, but we’re really looking forward to Buffalo.”

Bandits notes

The Bandits may be without D Billy Dee Smith, who hurt his ankle at work and may be put on the Physically Unable to Perform list if it’s not feeling right by gametime on Saturday … Coach Darris Kilgour had mixed emotions from the weekend’s 2-game set, but at least it ended on a positive note. “I wasn’t real happy with Friday night,” he said. “We were undisciplined, took some bad penalties and didn’t compete as hard as I would have liked and we took a loss because of it,” he said. “But we got better as the weekend went on and that’s a good sign.” … Rookie Dhane Smith admitted nerves were on high alert, but did well to finish the weekend with 4 goals, including 3 and the game-winner in Saturday’s game against Minnesota. But he’s about to enter a new realm in Buffalo’s rivalry with Rochester. “I’m really excited,” he said. “I’ve played against Johnny Powless but it’s a new year. The nerves are out for our team and we’re getting used to each other.” … Kilgour praised the play of F Nick Cotter, who has embraced his role of coming out of the back door for the Bandits. “Like everybody else, he was shaky on Friday but overall he got better as the weekend went on. He’s got a great attitude and is a great athlete with great hands on the goal for us.”

saturday

Colorado Mammoth at Calgary Roughnecks
Saturday, January 19 - Scotiabank Saddledome - 9 p.m. (EST)

Records: Mammoth 0-1, Roughnecks 0-1.
Broadcast: YouTube.
Last week: Colorado lost to Washington, 17-13, on Saturday; Calgary lost to Toronto, 13-9, on Saturday.
History: Colorado leads all-time series, 14-12 (7-5 in Colorado).
Goals for: Calgary 11 (8th); Colorado 13 (tied for 4th).
Goals against: Calgary 13 (tied for 3rd); Colorado 17 (5th)
Scoring leaders: Calgary — Daryl Veltman (1-4), Shawn Evans (3-2); Colorado — John Grant Jr. (3-3), Gavin Prout (1-4).
League leaders: Colorado F Sean Pollock (17 PIM), Colorado T Ilija Gajic (6 forced turnovers).

Mammoth notes

The Mammoth started the season with Chris Levis in goal but found Matt Roik in cage by game’s end after Levis struggled in Saturday’s loss to Washington. Coach Bob Hamley didn’t pin the blame on a single name, but said Saturday’s starter against Calgary will be named at game time. “We win as a team and we lose as a team,” Hamley said. “A lot of mistakes were made on Saturday, goaltending included.” … Veteran F Gavin Prout agreed, saying the mistakes were up and down the floor. “We had breakdowns on offense and defense and we’ll get into that in practice on Friday.” It wasn’t all bad, though, as he pointed out the positives the Mammoth can build on. “Coming back in the fourth quarter, there’s no quit in this team,” he said. “We were down by what, 8? But we made it a game … the offense was clicking a bit more … and we held (Washington) to 1 goal in the fourth.” …

Roughnecks notes

Discipline was a big issue for the Riggers, said coach Curt Malawsky, and Rock cashed in by going 4-for-6 on the power play. “Guys will be losing minutes if that continues,” the coach said. “The guys know what we expect. They let the team down but we’re confident in this group. They know when something is said, it will get done.” … F Shawn Evans saw the same but says the team’s best is yet to come. “We took a few penalties that put us down and we didn’t play our best lacrosse so hopefully we got that out of the way,” he said. … 3 of Toronto’s 4 power play goals came in the third quarter to push Toronto’s lead to 10-5, but Malawsky said solid goaltending kept the game from getting away. “If not for Mike Poulin, it could have been a lot worse,” he said of the goalie and his 35 saves … T Geoff Snider started 2013 right where he left off in 2012, winning 19 of 26 faceoffs and scooping a game-high 16 loose balls … The offense should get a boost with the return of F Dane Dobbie, who started the season with a 1-game suspension carried over from last season.

SUNDAY

Edmonton Rush at Washington Stealth
Sunday, January 20 - Comcast Arena - 6 p.m. (EST)

Records: Rush 0-1; Stealth 2-0.
Broadcast: YouTube.
Last week: Edmonton lost to Toronto, 10-9, on Sunday; Washington defeated Colorado, 17-13, on Saturday.
History: Rush lead all-time series (vs. Stealth in Washington) 6-2 (3-1 in Washington)
Goals for: Rush 9 (9th); Stealth 30 (1st).
Goals against: Rush 10 (2nd); Stealth 25 (tied for 8th)
Scoring leaders: Rush — Ryan Ward (1-4), Curtis Knight (3-2); Stealth — Cliff Smith (7-8), Rhys Duch (6-4).
League leaders: Stealth F Cliff Smith (15 points, 7 goals), Stealth T Bob Snider (30 LB, 43 faceoff wins), Stealth F Lewis Ratcliff (28 shots on goal); Rush F Curtis Knight (3 power play goals).

Rush notes

Despite being finalists a year ago, the Rush started the new season with a familiar problem: inconsistency, especially up front. “We played well in spurts,” coach Derek Keenan said. “We had a good start to the game but we may have run out of gas a bit.” … G Aaron Bold, who finished with 34 saves, said the defense played well for the most part but will need to be sharper against a Stealth squad that’s already scored 30 goals in 2 games. “They move the ball really well so we need to keep them outside and keep them from swinging the ball as fast as they do to get me out of the net,” he said. “We have our work cut out for us.” … The Rush could benefit from more balance on offense as 2 rookies, F Curtis Knight (3) and Mark Matthews (3) combined to score 6 of the team’s 9 goals.

Stealth notes

Thirty goals in 2 games is a big improvement from 2012, when the Stealth had 19 goals. And as well as the offense is shooting, coach Chris Hall says the young new defense is a big factor as well. “We’re agggressive, young and fast,” he said, pointing to newcomers Justin Pychel, Tim Henderson, Tyler Garrison and Mitch McMichael. “And we’ve really improved our lacrosse IQ. They have a feel for the game and they’re not making the mistakes back there that we were making last year. We’ve been pretty smart back there and that’s been a big improvement.” … T Cliff Smith sees the same. “They are fast and physical without being a liability.” … Smith has a team-high 15 points through 2 games but maintains the team effort is what’s creating looks for him. And by doing things correctly this year, the momentum is easier to build on. “It’s easy to build when things are going right,” he said. “Rather than trying to right the ship, which is what we were trying to do last year.” … Washington’s top 7 scorers through 2 games this season have a combined 56 points compared to last year’s top 7 after 2 games having just 25. Hall credits the improved production across the board to the secondary play, which removes pressure from 1 or 2 sticks, and opens space for anyone who’s on the floor. “We needed to change the mixup a little bit in our supporting cast and that’s worked out very well,” he said … G Tyler Richards should be back as the starter this week against Edmonton. Hall said he wanted to get Nick Patterson some early minutes because he hadn’t played that much since being released by Minnesota early in 2012.

Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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