Washington Stealth 2012 Preview: Losing Is Not an Option

Jim FlanneryAnalyst IDecember 17, 2011

Stealth forward Lewis Ratcliff (credit: Richard Olson)
Stealth forward Lewis Ratcliff (credit: Richard Olson)

The Washington Stealth have been to the National Lacrosse League's Champion's Cup game twice in the two years since the Stealth relocated to the Seattle area from San Jose.  They have faced the same opponent, the Toronto Rock, both times. In 2010, the Stealth came away with the trophy; last season they fell just short.

In 2012, Washington is looking to refocus their efforts and bring the Cup back home—anything less than a trip to the finals would be unthinkable.

Washington made two key moves during the offseason. One sent veteran goaltender Matt Roik to Toronto for defenseman Kyle Ross. The other dealt Luke Wiles to Buffalo in exchange for draft picks.

The Roik deal opens the door for Tyler Richards to take on the full-time role as goalie for the Stealth. He and Roik shared netminding duties last year, with Richards emerging as the No. 1 guy, leading the team in minutes (672), goals against average (11.61) and save percentage (.781). A full season out of Jeff Zywicki, who played just three regular season games last year, should help fill the void left by Wiles' departure—he is typically good for around 75-80 points over a full season. 

The Stealth led the NLL in scoring last year, with 203 goals as a team. The bulk of the scoring burden will once again be handled by All-Pro Second Team forward Lewis Ratcliff, who finished second in the NLL in points with 92, and All-Pro First Team forward Rhys Duch, who finished in third with 90.

That potent one-two combination will continue to give defenses fits and should keep the Stealth near the top of the league for scoring. Secondary scoring will be handled by Zywicki, Cam Sedgwick (48 points) and Paul Rabil (44 points).  

In addition to Ross, the defense will once again feature the strong play of Mike Grimes, Eric Martin and Bob Snider, all of whom were in the league's top 20 for loose balls (along with Rabil, who led the team). Grimes was also second in the league in forced turnovers with 27. Snider will also take the bulk of the faceoffs where he is among the elite of the NLL and arguably the second best faceoff man behind his brother Geoff, who plays for the Calgary Roughnecks.

Following a 14-13 overtime win over Toronto in a scrimmage last weekend, the Stealth play one more scrimmage at home in Comcast Arena in Everett against the Colorado Mammoth. They then make their final roster cuts and prep for their home opener versus the Roughnecks on Jan. 14.