Special to the Langley Advance
The Vancouver Stealth are apparently better late than ever.
Langley’s pro lacrosse team won its second contest in a row Saturday night, downing the Saskatchewan Rush 14-12 at the Langley Events Centre and extending their National Lacrosse League playoff hopes in the process.
Vancouver (5-11) has two road games remaining in the regular season, with visits to the Colorado Mammoth (11-6) Friday and to the Georgia Swarm (7-10) Saturday, and needs to win them both to have any chance at the post-season.
The Calgary Roughnecks (7-10), who were idle this weekend, host the Toronto Rock (5-12) next Saturday to wrap up their schedule. If both Vancouver and Calgary finish 7-11, the Stealth would nab the third and final playoff post out of the West based on a better divisional record.
Corey Small bagged the eventual winner for Vancouver Saturday at 6:10 of the fourth quarter.
Vancouver picked him up from the Rush in a January, 2015 trade for a package that includes Vancouver’s first-round pick in this year’s NLL draft.
The Stealth went into the night with the lowest winning percentage in the nine-team league.
Logan Schuss had four goals and four assists for the victors and Joel McCready added four goals and two assists, including a tally at the 13:33 mark of the fourth, that nixed any thoughts of a Saskatchewan comeback.
Rhys Duch, Vancouver’s leading scorer, finished with two goals and six assists, but didn’t play after getting tripped up by Saskatchewan’s Kyle Rubisch with 4:43 remaining.
Rubisch received a holding minor on the play.
The game marked the return to the lineup of Garrett Billings, Vancouver’s prize off-season trade pickup.
A three-time 100-point man with the Toronto Rock, Billings (lower body injury) had missed the past five games, but notched a goal and five assists Saturday.
Mark Matthews led the Rush (12-5), the reigning league champions who moved from Edmonton to Saskatoon this off-season, with five goals and two assists. Robert Church had three goals and two assists in the losing effort.
Tyler Richards made 47 saves in the Vancouver net. Aaron Bold made 40 stops for the Rush.
Team owners Denise Watkins of the Stealth and Bruce Urban of the Rush both agreed to pay $5,000 apiece to the Lacrosse on the Move fund if the game was a sellout. Lacrosse on the Move is a partnership set up between the Stealth and the B.C. Lacrosse Association to raise money for teams travelling to provincials and athletes travelling to the national events.
The contest drew 4,409 to the LEC, which lists capacity at 5,276.
The Stealth announced in the fourth quarter that Watkins would donate $4,409, and challenged Urban on social media to do the same.
Vancouver averaged crowds of 3,677 its first eight home games. They were last in the league in attendance going into Saturday. The NLL’s nine teams were averaging 9,050 at the start of the day.
Vancouver was up 8-4 at the halftime break. They scored a second straight goal on their final shot of a period, as Duch blasted a long shot between Bold’s legs with 0.5 seconds showing on the clock.
Vancouver had a 4-1 lead after the first quarter. Schuss blew an outside shot past Bold with 2.1 seconds remaining to give the Stealth added momentum going into the break.
The Stealth sat out defender Travis Cornwall (undisclosed). His brother, Jeff, is a defender for Saskatchewan.
The Rush also sat out 37-goal man Zack Greer (undisclosed).
– Steve Ewen is a reporter with the Vancouver Province