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Do-or-die for Stealth

Winner of Vancouver/Calgary clash earns final playoff berth in National Lacrosse League West Division
Vancouver Stealth's Mitch McMichael battles for the ball during a face-off against Rochester earlier this season at the Langley Events Centre. McMichael and his Stealth teammates are faced with a must-win game on May 2 at the LEC. A victory over Calgary will qualify the team for the NLL playoffs while a loss would end their season.
Win and they are in, simple as that for the Vancouver Stealth.Of course, the same holds true for the Calgary Roughnecks.But that is what is at stake on Saturday night in the final regular season game for the National Lacrosse League. Game time is 7 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre.And the Stealth are hoping they can use a home-crowd advantage in their favour.“There will be a game 7 atmosphere in the building,” said Vancouver coach Dan Perreault.“The guys are fired up; they understand the importance of this game.”The Roughnecks are 6-11 while the Stealth are 5-12. A Vancouver victory would give both teams six wins on the season, but they would hold the tiebreaker with a three-to-one advantage in head-to-head victories.“It’s our biggest game of the year,” said Stealth transition player Mitch McMichael.“We are pumped and excited; this is why you play lacrosse.”The Stealth and the Roughnecks haven’t played head-to-head since a home-and-home series back in February.Vancouver won the opener 13-9 but Calgary took game two, 16-13.Until that victory, the Roughnecks had been 0-6 but have gone 6-5 over the past 11 games to get back into playoff contention.Including that loss, the Stealth are on a 2-9 slide ever since.The teams also met in week one with Vancouver winning on the road, 18-14.Perreault said the team can’t focus on what has transpired over the past nine weeks.“Right now, we are healthy and ready to go,” he said.“The biggest thing is to get the win when you need it most.”“We are prepared,” McMichael said.“We have been making huge strides the last couple of weeks.”The teams enter the game equal in the goal-scoring department as they both average 11.6 goals per game. The big difference is the defensive end as the Stealth have allowed a league-worse 14.8 goals against. Calgary surrenders a dozen goals per game.Special teams also favour Calgary.The Roughnecks also boast the most-potent power play, connecting on 55.42 per cent of their chances (46-for-83) and have the best penalty kill, killing off 64.36 of the opposition’s chances (36 goals allowed on 101 chances).The Stealth (45-for-102) come in at 44.12 per cent on the power play and a 44.57 penalty kill percentage (51 goals allowed on 92 chances). Vancouver has also allowed a league-high 16 short-handed goals.Vancouver is coming off a 17-9 loss to the Bandits in Buffalo. The team was within two goals after three quarters but Buffalo erupted for eight goals in the final period for the one-sided final score.“We ran out of gas in the fourth quarter,” Perreault said.Calgary is coming off a bye week.“Guys are chomping at the bit to go,” said Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky.The winner of this game will face the Colorado Mammoth in a single-game elimination playoff game the following week in Denver.And whichever team prevails from that contest faces the West Division-winners, the Edmonton Rush in a two-game Divisional Series.