It has been a stunning start to the season for the Vancouver Stealth.
Faced with back-to-back road games in Calgary and Denver — more than 1,700 kilometres apart and needing a 6 a.m. flight the day of the second of those contests — the Stealth beat the odds and returned home with all four points to open the National Lacrosse League season.
Vancouver withstood a late rally in Calgary on Friday to hold off the Roughnecks 12-11 at the Scotiabank Saddledome before scoring eight of the final nine goals in a 15-9 win over the Mammoth at the Pepsi Center on Saturday night.
Head coach and assistant general manager Jamie Batley said the team was happy but not surprised to win both games.
“It was a lot of hard work,” he said on Monday morning.
“We all hoped that we would have that kind of start. Everyone understands how difficult it is to win two on the road, or just win two anytime in one weekend in this league.”
Friday’s contest saw the team score early — Rhys Duch struck 26 seconds in — and lead 5-2 after one quarter. Each team would score four times in the second quarter for a 9-6 Stealth lead at the half and Vancouver would extend their advantage to 11-7 after three quarters.
And after Keegan Bal made it 12-7 early in the fourth, the Roughnecks scored the game’s final four goals for the 12-11 final.
Bal (three goals, two assists) and Corey Small (three goals, five assists) each had hat tricks while Duch had two goals and five assists. Logan Schuss (one goal, three assists), Tommy McKee (one goal, two assists) and Joel McCready (one goal) rounded out the scoring.
After catching an early-morning flight to Denver the next day, the Stealth fell behind 2-1 early before responding with six of the next eight goals to lead 7-4 at the break. The Mammoth scored four goals in the first 6:16 of the third quarter to forge ahead but Vancouver showed some resolve, netting three goals in 52 seconds to retake the lead 10-8 at the quarter break.
Batley said he had talked to the team at half-time about not panicking if Colorado made a run. And during that 4-0 Mammoth stretch, he said the Stealth strayed from the game plan and were trying to do too much on their own.
The TV timeout gave him the chance to refocus the team.
The teams would trade goals to start the fourth before Vancouver scored four unanswered for the 15-9 final score.
Duch led the attack with six goals and nine points while Schuss (four goals, two assists) Small (two goals, five assists) and McCready (one goal, three assists) also had huge games.
Justin Salt (one goal, two assists) and Travis Cornwall (one goal) also got in on the scoring while Jordan Durston (four assists) and Bal (three assists) had multi-point games.
All in all, it was a good weekend for the Stealth as their offence displayed great ball movement, the defence played well and goaltender Tyler Richards “stood on his head all weekend.”
Richards made 36 saves against Calgary and another 43 against Colorado.
The Stealth will look for a 3-0 start to the season as they host the Roughnecks at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday night. Game time is 7 p.m.
“They are going to be hungry and they are not going to let us get a five-goal lead or anything like that. We are going to have to come and play 60 minutes,” Batley said.
“Calgary’s offence is an amazing offence.
“They have five, six guys that can score at any time so we really have to tighten our defence up and try to counterattack some of the plays they have.
“They execute their plays really well so defensively we are going to have to have a really great game.”
Batley said he believes his team escaped the weekend relatively healthy, minus a few nicks and bruises.
He did say the team will have some line-up changes — which they knew about ahead of time regarding player availability — but declined to divulge the changes.