Washington Stealth head coach Chris Hall and general manager Doug Locker believed that if the team could just make it to the playoffs they could make a run at a third consecutive appearance in the National Lacrosse League Champion’s Cup.
The Stealth finished the season with a league-worst 4-12, so we will never know. But the fact that the Edmonton Rush and Rochester Knighthawks play each other for the title on Saturday lends a little bit of credibility to Hall and Locker’s argument.
The Rush were the No. 4 seed in the West with a 6-10 record in the regular season, but have stormed through the playoffs with a 19-11 victory over Calgary in the first round and 15-3 thrashing of the Minnesota Swarm last Saturday. Rochester had a 7-9 record in the regular season, but has had a similar run in the East playoffs.
Hall and Locker consistently said throughout the season that there was plenty of parity in the league and the difference from top to bottom was very small. This year’s playoffs have proved them to be right.
When Hall came back to the team in mid-season after missing the first half while recovering from throat cancer treatment, his goal for the 1-5 Stealth was to go .500 the rest of the way. Hall felt that would get his team into the playoffs. It turns out Hall was right, .500 would have gotten the Stealth into the playoffs, but his team finished the season just 3-7.
It was a disappointing season for the Stealth filled with injuries and inconsistent play. But the Rush and the Knighthawks appearance in the championship game should give Stealth fans hope that if the Stealth can at least get into the playoffs next year, anything can happen.
Saturday’s championship game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network at 4:30 p.m. It is the Knighthawks first appearance in the championship game since 2007 and the franchise’s first championship game for the Rush.
Over the past week, the NLL has also continued to hand out its postseason awards. Here is an update on who has won what:
Edmonton defenseman Kyle Rubisch was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. He led the league with 43 forced turnovers and was sixth in the league with 151 loose balls.
Minnesota’s Andrew Suitor won Transition Player of the Year honors. He picked up 120 loose balls and scored 15 goals and dished 11 assists in 16 games.
Minnesota’s Joe Sullivan also earned Coach of the Year honors for leading a revamped roster to a 9-7 record and an appearance in the West Division final.
Calgary goalkeeper Mike Poulin earned Goaltender of the Year honors, leading the Roughnecks to a 12-4 record in the regular season. Poulin ranked second in the NLL with a 10.27 goals-against average and finished with 486 saves allowing a league-low 170 goals.
The NLL also announced its 2012 Rookie teams and All-Pro teams, they are as follows:
Adam Jones | Colorado Mammoth
Kevin Crowley | Philadelphia Wings
Jordan MacIntosh | Minnesota Swarm
Evan Kirk | Minnesota Swarm
Johnny Powless | Rochester Knighthawks
Stephen Keogh | Rochester Knighthawks
First Team All-Pro
Forward – John Grant, Colorado (8th selection)
Forward – Garrett Billings, Toronto (1st selection)
Forward – Dan Dawson, Philadelphia (7th selection)
Transition – Andrew Suitor, Minnesota (1st selection)
Defenseman – Kyle Rubisch, Edmonton (1st selection)
Goaltender – Mike Poulin, Calgary (1st selection)
Second Team All-Pro
Forward – John Tavares, Buffalo (18th selection)
Forward – Cody Jamieson, Rochester (1st selection)
Forward – Shawn Evans, Calgary (1st selection)
Transition – Brodie Merrill, Philadelphia (5th selection)
Defenseman – Jeff Gilbert, Minnesota (1st selection)
Defenseman – Mike Carnegie, Calgary (1st selection)
Goaltender – Aaron Bold, Edmonton (1st selection)