Vancouver Stealth general manager Doug Locker can’t recall a National Lacrosse League season ever being this tight at the midway point of the 18-game campaign.
Heading into this weekend’s action, five teams out of nine each have three victories
Unfortunately for Locker, his Stealth squad is one of those five teams in the logjam. And the way the season has played out, he really feels his team could have easily been 5-4 instead of the 3-6 record they currently hold.
“We have to close out some wins at home. That is the single biggest frustration, being 3-2 on the road and 0-4 at home,” he said.
“We have to get some wins at home. That is really the glaring issue for us. It is immensely frustrating.”
Vancouver began the season 2-0 but has since dropped six of seven.
And in four of those losses, the team has been tied in the fourth quarter.
But Locker is taking the glass half-full approach.
“Bottom line is, I feel great about the progress we are making. I think we have showed that we can compete with anybody, we have shown that over the (last) four weeks,” he said.
The defence and transition have shown signs they are rounding into form.
NLL teams are allowing an average of a dozen goals per game and while Vancouver is ranked seventh at 13 goals against per game, they have been or late, surrendered 10 goals in each of the past three games. The Stealth did give up a dozen last week, but two of those came with the goaltender on the bench for an extra attacker.
“We have really turned the corner at that end (of the floor). We are getting the goaltending we need, the transition is starting to come together,” Locker said.
Tye Belanger has started the last four games and posted a .790 save percentage. For the season, he has stopped .775 of the shots he has faced, which puts him the top half in the league for that category.
The transition game has been led by Justin Salt who has five goals and 14 points in nine games. He is halfway to his career high of 10 goals and just five points away from the 19 he put up two seasons ago with the Stealth.
And up until last week, Vancouver’s offence was doing just fine.
They were held to a season-low eight goals on Feb. 25 in a 12-8 loss to Rochester.
The Stealth are fourth in the league with 11.8 goals per game but against Rochester, the offence was out of sync all night,.
Logan Schuss was held goal-less despite 11 shots on goal. He was averaging three goals per game.
Corey Small did continue his torrid pace, registering four of Vancouver’s eight goals, and he now leads the team with 25 goals. He is tied for the league-lead in goals and is tops in points with 61.
The right-side had Garrett Billings, Cory Conway and rookie James Rahe have combined to play just nine games this season and the lack of familiarity with one another showed.
It also didn’t help that they were playing without right-hander Rhys Duch, who averages nearly six points per game.
“Rhys is the cog on that side, so we were out of sync,” Locker said.
Barring a setback, Duch is anticipated to be back in the line-up when the Stealth host the Saskatchewan Rush on March 4 at Langley Events Centre.