By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
ROCHESTER — The Washington Stealth go into today’s National Lacrosse League game with the Rochester Knighthawks with a new look.
The 1-4 Stealth traded away transition player Paul Rabil on Monday in exchange for forward Athan Iannucci in an attempt to ignite their lackluster offense. Iannucci is scheduled to make his Stealth debut today.
“I think it’s certainly going to add some offense to what has so far been a struggling offense,” Stealth head coach Chris Hall said. “Instinctively, I think everybody is going to blend together pretty good right off the bat.”
Iannucci is a proven goal-scorer. He set the NLL single-season record for goals (71) in 2008 while playing for the Philadelphia Wings.
His ability to put the ball in the net has Rochester coach Mike Hasen’s attention. “We’re really aware that when (Iannucci) has the ball, he’s really a threat,” Hasen said.
Iannucci joins Rhys Duch and Brett Bucktooth on the right-handed offensive side, giving the Stealth three legitimate scoring threats.
“That right side will be a test for us,” Hasen said.
The Knighthawks also face the challenge of playing short-handed. Rochester will be without Cody Jamieson, Jordan Hall, Travis Hill, Tyler Burton and Sid Smith for today’s game. The five players were suspended indefinitely by the league after they were arrested following an alleged incident at a restaurant in suburban Minneapolis on Monday.
The Knighthawks will miss Jamieson the most. He ranks second in the NLL with 38 points (18 goals, 20 assists).
Today’s game also has playoff implications for the Stealth. In the nine-team league, the fifth-place team from the West Division has an opportunity to make the playoffs if it finishes with a better record than the fourth-place team from the East. The Stealth are currently fifth in the West and Rochester (2-4) is tied with Buffalo for last place in the East. Washington already beat Buffalo once this season and a victory over Rochester would give the Stealth the tie-breaker over both teams.
In order for the Stealth to get a win today, Hall said the team needs to clean up the little mistakes it’s been making. Against Calgary last weekend, Hall notes, Washington failed to take advantage of a 5-on-3 opportunity and had trouble scoring what he called “the big goal.”
The Stealth lost to the Roughnecks 12-11 and were never able to take a two-goal advantage in the contest, which Hall said would have been key in such a tightly contested game. Hall also said the team took too many penalties.
“We have to clean that up and understand that we can’t be taking undisciplined penalties,” Hall said. “If we can clean that up, one would think we could have won that game handily.”
Hall has missed every game so far this season as he recovers from treatment for throat cancer, but said he expects to be on the bench next weekend when the Stealth face Minnesota at Comcast Arena.
“I’m enthused to get back into the competition,” Hall said.
Aaron Lommers covers the Washington Stealth for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.