Sports

Grounded in season opener, Stealth set to soar in home opener at Langley Events Centre

A capacity crowd watched the 2013 National Lacrosse League
A capacity crowd watched the 2013 National Lacrosse League's Champion's Cup final at the Langley Events Centre back in May. The Vancouver Stealth, who relocated to Langley in the off-season, are set to make their 2014 home debut at the LEC on Jan. 11.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

The Vancouver Stealth overcame some early adversity to lead at the half, but ultimately came up short in their season opener for the 2014 National Lacrosse League campaign.

The Stealth lost 13-12 to the host Colorado Mammoth at Denver’s Pepsi Center on Saturday (Jan. 4) night.

Vancouver captain Kyle Sorenson was ejected in the first quarter due to a match penalty and while the Stealth killed off the ensuing five-minute power-play, playing one defender short for the duration of the game finally caught up to them.

“I think it showed late in the third and early in the fourth quarter when we tired a bit,” said coach Chris Hall.

“We turned the ball over at centre a couple of times and they got a couple of runs on us.”

“There’s a lot of one-goal games in this league and the team that weathers the momentum storms and doesn’t make those fundamental mistakes usually end up on top,” Hall said.

“In the final minutes we made a number of those fundamental errors that ended up costing us.”

The Stealth overcame surrendering the game’s first two goals to lead 6-4 at the half and were up 8-5 early in the third quarter. But the Mammoth closed the period on a 5-1 run to lead 10-9 heading into the final quarter.

Each team scored three times in the fourth, but Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward came up with a pair of huge saves in the final minute off both Lewis Ratcliff and Ryhs Duch to preserve the victory.

“I think in the last five minutes we turned the ball over at centre when we were being pressured,” Hall said. “We didn’t clear the ball well and those are the mistakes that cost you games in this league.”

Hall was also impressed by the play of rookies Tyler Digby and Cody Bremner — who both scored in their debuts — as well as newcomer Alex Gajic.

Gajic led all players with one goal and eight points while Digby had three goals and three assists and was a force who helped create room for Duch, who finished with four goals and two assists.

“Offensively, I was really pleased with the performance of those three players,” he said.

“We brought them to create more offence for us and they delivered.”

The coach was also pleased with his defence, which limited the Mammoth to four goals in the first half.

Another factor in the outcome was the fact this was Colorado’s second game of the season — they improved to 1-1 — while it was the Stealth’s first game of the campaign.

“At times, they might have been a little game-sharper than we were with the one game under their belts already,” Hall said.

“But having said that, I think we were decently sharp for the first game of the season.

“I think that is going to improve with our home opener.”

The home opener goes this Saturday (Jan. 11) at the Langley Events Centre against the Minnesota Swarm.

Hall anticipates his players will be anxious to put on a good show for their new home crowd.

This is the team’s first season in Langley after relocating from Everett, Wash.

“We expect to put on a good performance every time we step on the floor and our home opener is no different,” Hall said.

“Obviously there will be a little added excitement to step onto the floor of our new home and that is going to be exciting.

“We are excited about playing in our new home on our turf and we want to put on a great performance.”

•••••

As part of the celebrations to mark the Stealth’s first game in Langley, there will be a pre-game festival at the LEC fieldhouse, which begins at 4 p.m.

The game starts at 7 p.m.

A ticket to the game gets fans into the pre-game festivities as well.

The event will feature, food, games, live music with the team’s play-by-play broadcaster Jake Elliott conducting a hot-stove panel interview.

Fans can also meet the team’s mascot, Bomber, as well as members of the Bombshells dance team.

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