Sports

Vancouver Stealth set to launch for 2014

Vancouver Stealth goaltender Tyler Richards gloves a shot during practice at the Langley Events Centre fieldhouse last week (Dec. 22). Richards and his teammates kick off the 2014 National Lacrosse League season on the road on Jan. 4 before playing their home opener at the Langley Events Centre on Jan. 11 against Minnesota. - Dan Ferguson/Langley Times
Vancouver Stealth goaltender Tyler Richards gloves a shot during practice at the Langley Events Centre fieldhouse last week (Dec. 22). Richards and his teammates kick off the 2014 National Lacrosse League season on the road on Jan. 4 before playing their home opener at the Langley Events Centre on Jan. 11 against Minnesota.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson/Langley Times

With three appearances in the past four Champion’s Cup league finals, the Vancouver Stealth have their sights set on a return to the National Lacrosse League finals.

“Each season is different and it is obviously a tough league,” said Stealth coach Chris Hall.

“Nine teams start the season with a vision of winning the Champion’s Cup and we are obviously no different than that.”

The Stealth are playing their first season out of the Langley Events Centre and after relocating from Everett, Wash.

And the team has just a few new faces in their roster as the Stealth had to cut down from the 40 players they had at training camp to 20 on the active roster and another four on the practice roster.

Hall said it was a difficult process, especially with new rules this year decreasing the roster size.

The club added four new faces — their top two draft picks in Cody Bremner and Tyler Digby, as well as free agent signees Sean Lundstrom and Alex Gajic — meaning they return about 75 per cent of the roster that came within a goal of forcing overtime in the 2013 Champions Cup final against the Rochester Knighthawks.

Lundstrom is a homegrown Langley product who played his junior with the Thunder.

The four new forwards will add to an already potent offence which returns a number of big offensive weapons, including last year’s leading scorer Rhys Duch.

Duch led the league with 45 goals and was third in points with 96.

Also expected to contribute offensively are Cliff Smith, Lewis Ratcliff and Brett Hickey.

Ilija Gajic was picked up in an off-season trade and will join an already solid defensive core.

The returning group of defencemen includes captain Kyle Sorensen, Mike Grimes, Curtis Hodgson, Justin Salt, Matt Beers, Bill Hostrawser and Tyler Garrison.

And Tyler Richards and Matt Roik will form the Stealth’s goaltending tandem.

“I think we do have what it takes (to win),” Hall said.

“I think the biggest challenge at the beginning of the season is preparing your team so it is a cohesive unit and game-ready.”

“We have to build chemistry and we need to get off to a good start, stay injury-free and hope luck comes your way a little bit,” he added.

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