Vancouver Stealth’s Rhys Duch (left) eludes the cross-check of Calgary Roughnecks’ Creighton Reid during National Lacrosse League action at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday night. Duch had two goals and nine points in a huge 15-11 Stealth victory. Gary Ahuja Langley Times

Stealth take huge step towards post-season berth

Vancouver thrills home crowd at Langley Events Centre with massive victory over Calgary in NLL action

The Vancouver Stealth’s playoff fate rests in their own hands.

Looking to make the National Lacrosse League playoffs for the first time since moving to Langley in 2014, the Stealth control their own destiny.

The team made sure of that, rallying from an 8-5 deficit in the third quarter to knock off the visiting Calgary Roughnecks on Saturday night at the Langley Events Centre.

The win improved Vancouver to 7-9 with two games remaining, while Calgary — the team the Stealth are battling with for the third and final playoff spot in the West Division — fell to 7-10, with just one game remaining.

And should the teams finish the regular season tied, the Stealth would get the nod for post-season play based on their 3-1 record head-to-head against Calgary.

While elated with the victory, the Stealth players also cautioned that nothing is done yet.

“It is one step closer to the playoffs (but) we still have lots of work to do,” said defender Ian Hawksbee, who finished the game with two assists. “We can’t take any days off.”

“We can’t rest on having the same record as Calgary with the tie-break; we want to earn our way in.

Hawksbee finished Saturday’s game with 14 loose balls, the most gathered by any player from either team.

He was quick to point out that his teammates did a great job of boxing out their opponent, making his job of scooping up the ball and keying the transition much easier.

“(Loose balls) is one thing I can do specifically to help the team so it is something I focus on,” he said.

And with Vancouver collecting loose balls, that helped key the team’s counterattack as the Stealth scored four transition goals.

“Four transition goals and that was the difference right there,” said Stealth head coach Jamie Batley, who has preached the importance of that aspect of the game all season.

Vancouver also got a good bounce back game from Tye Belanger.

Pulled the week before, Belanger responded with a 39-save performance, and he sits second in the NLL with a .787 save percentage.

Offensively, Vancouver had a strong second half after being held to five goals in the opening 30 minutes.

And the Stealth offence was striking from both sides with seven goals from their left-handed forwards and five from the right-side.

Logan Schuss, scoreless in three games, broke through with a five-goal performance while Rhys Duch led all scorers with two goals and nine points.

“It was just one of those games where the ball was going in for me,” Schuss said. “(And) it was about time; I was well overdue.”

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The game was also Lacrosse on the Move night with the Stealth wearing special British Columbia-themed jerseys which were also up for auction.

Altogether, $7,575 was raised with the money going to the Lacrosse on the Move fund. The money helps travelling lacrosse teams from around the province.

The Stealth have their regular season home finale, Saturday at 7 p.m. at the LEC against the Colorado Mammoth (9-7). Should the Stealth win their final two games while Colorado went 0-2, Vancouver would finish in second place. The game is also Fan Appreciation Night.