by Steve Ewen
special to the Langley Advance
It sounds as if new coach Jamie Batley will have a full complement of offensive players for his second game at the helm of the Vancouver Stealth.
Vancouver general manager Doug Locker stated via email on Sunday that he “expects” left-hander Logan Schuss (upper body injury) and right-hander Garrett Billings (lower body injury) to be in the lineup when the Stealth (3-8) continue their National Lacrosse League season Friday on the road versus the East Division leading Buffalo Bandits (7-4).
Schuss, Vancouver’s leading scorer at the time, and Billings, a former 100-point man in the league who was the Stealth’s key off-season addition, were both late scratches for Batley’s debut on Saturday night against the visiting Saskatchewan Rush at the Langley Events Centre.
Batley had replaced the fired Dan Perreault on Tuesday morning, with Vancouver in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a third straight season since moving to the LEC. The NLL plays an 18-game regular season.
Even minus Schuss and Billings, the Stealth wound up in an offensive slugfest against the Rush, who won the league title last season while based in Edmonton. Saskatchewan (7-3) went on a seven-goal run over seven minutes in the fourth quarter Saturday and coasted to a 24-16 victory before a crowd of 3,425.
Saskatchewan led 7-6 after one quarter, 14-10 at halftime and 16-15 going into the fourth. They outshot Vancouver 67-50.
The 40 goals combined were the most in the NLL since the Rochester Knighthawks beat the New York Titans 22-18 on Jan. 27, 2007.
The league record for most goals in a game is 49, set on Nov. 24, 2001, when the Montreal Express beat the Calgary Roughnecks 32-17.
Even with the outburst, Saskatchewan is averaging 13.8 goals per game this season. That’s second best in the league, behind the 13.82 put up by the Bandits. Vancouver is scoring 11.09, which is seventh-best in the nine-team circuit, and allowing a league-worst 13.64.
Three players were in double digits in points on the night; Saskatchewan’s Mark Matthews had two goals and eight assists, while teammate Zack Greer supplied five goals and six assists and Vancouver’s Rhys Duch produced six goals and five assists. Duch’s night pushed him past Schuss for the team scoring lead by six points.
Duch has 27 goals and 36 assists, Schuss has 18 goals and 39 assists. Billings’ 12 goals and 37 assists leave him one point behind Corey Small for third on the squad.
Billings, who came to the Stealth in an October trade with the New England Black Wolves, left Vancouver’s 9-6 road loss against the Toronto Rock last week midway through and returned wearing a knee brace. There’s no word on what happened to Schuss.
Steve Ewen is a reporter with the Vancouver Province