Rock spoils Langley-based Stealth’s home opener

The Toronto Rock wrecked the Langley-based Vancouver Stealth’s Saturday night house party.

In their National Lacrosse League home opener against the Rock, the Stealth had one good quarter and three not-so-good ones, losing 20-11 to the visitors from the Big Smoke.

The Stealth led 4-2 after the first quarter in front of 4,724 fans at the Langley Events Centre, but after that, it was all Rock, who out-scored the home team 8-2 in the second quarter and 10-5 in the second half.

After opening their season with an 18-14 road win over the Calgary Roughnecks, the Stealth fell short in their attempt to go 2-0 to start their 2015 NLL campaign.

Toronto’s Josh Sanderson had a game for the ages with four goals and 10 assists. His teammate Rob Hellyer also had a big night offensively with six goals and four assists.

Rhys Duch led the Stealth with three goals and two assists. Tyler Digby scored twice and added three helpers for the home team.

The Stealth came out of the gates flying in front of the raucous home crowd, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first six and a half minutes of the first quarter.

Ilija Gajic opened the scoring 2:29 in when he beat Rock goaltender Brandon Miller.

“We came out with a lot of energy,” Gajic said. “We started fatiguing a bit in the second period. You could see guys getting tired and making foolish mistakes and as soon as we started doing that, a team like Toronto is going to beat you.”

The start of the second half was all Rock, who tallied the first five goals of the third quarter before the Stealth stopped the streak, scoring the last two goals of the frame but trailed 15-8 going into the fourth stanza

Despite the loss, Duch reached a very important milestone in Stealth franchise history. In the first quarter, he assisted on a goal by Digby, which made him the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, scoring his 531st point, surpassing Gary Rosyski.

“It’s great to be the team’s all-time points leader but I wish the end result was different,” Duch said.

Offence ruled the day, with the teams combining for 31 total goals and 99 shots.

The Rock’s Miller made 33 saves to pick up the win while the Stealth’s Tyler Richards had a tough night for Vancouver, suffering his first loss of the season despite making 31 saves.

“We have to follow our game plan,” Gajic said. “The games are not going to come easy. It’s a good wake-up call and we have to be better.”

The Stealth are back at home this Saturday, Jan. 17 when they welcome the Buffalo Bandits to the LEC. Faceoff is at 7 p.m.

Tickets can be had by clicking here, and, if available, at the door the night of the game.

FINAL BUZZER: The Stealth are looking to bounce back from a tough 2014 campaign where they finished with a 4-14 record, tied for worst in the NLL with the Minnesota Swarm.

The pre-game ceremony on Saturday included an emotional video tribute to the late Chris Hall, who was the Stealth’s bench boss in 2014 (their inaugural season in Langley) before retiring due to health reasons.

Hall passed away Dec. 21 after a four-year battle with cancer. He was 64.

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