EVERETT — The Washington Stealth and the Toronto Rock have met in the National Lacrosse League’s championship game the past two seasons.
They meet at 4 p.m. today in a regular-season game in Toronto, but the circumstances are much different than those championship matchups of the past.
The Rock are 4-3 and looking to maintain at least a share of first place in the NLL’s East Division. The 1-6 Stealth, on the other hand, are just looking to win a game, something that hasn’t happened often this season.
“Never mind a playoff spot,” Stealth head coach Chris Hall said. “We’re searching for a win. First things first, and the first thing we need to do is win a game.”
There have been many contributing factors to the Stealth’s dismal start to this season, but it’s difficult to look past the injuries they have suffered. Forwards Rhys Duch and Jeff Zywicki, defensemen Kyle Sorensen and Chris McElroy, and goalkeeper Tyler Richards — all key players for Washington — have missed time with injuries.
Duch and Richards will each miss his second straight game tonight, but Zywicki, Sorensen and McElroy should be back.
Hall said the return of Sorensen should bring accountability to the Stealth’s defense.
“Kyle is a big leader and holds a lot of people accountable for what they are doing back there,” Hall said.
Zywicki’s return can only help an offense that has struggled to score goals all season.
“Zywicki makes the power-play much, much better and makes our offense much, much better,” Hall said.
The injuries haven’t made things easy on the Stealth, but Hall said that is no excuse.
“(Injuries are) an issue obviously, but other teams go through injuries too,” he said.
Another factor in the Stealth’s loss last Friday to the Minnesota Swarm was goaltending. Without Richards, Chris Seidel got the start and gave up 12 of the Swarm’s 15 goals. Matt Kirk, signed by the Stealth the day of the game, gave up the other three. With Richards out again, the Stealth signed goalkeeper Kevin Croswell on Thursday. To make room for Croswell, the team moved Seidel to the practice squad.
“Kevin is a guy we’ve looked at before because we have confidence he will fit in our defensive systems,” Hall said. “He’s a big body that blocks outside shots well. He knows what it takes to play in this league and has shown in the past that he can excel when given the opportunity.”
The Stealth made one other roster move Thursday, adding left-handed defenseman Justin Salt to the active roster from the practice squad and releasing transition player Nenad Gajic.
The Stealth re-signed Sorensen on Friday. He was temporarily released last week to make room on the roster for Kirk.
To clear a spot for Sorenson, Washington temporarily released forward Cam Sedgwick, who is unavailable this weekend. “Sedgwick will be re-signed to the roster next week,” the team said in a press release.
Aaron Lommers covers the Washington Stealth for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.