If the other team does not possess the ball, then they cannot score, plain and simple.
The key, however, is keeping the ball away from the opponent, especially one as lethal as the high-scoring — and unbeaten — Colorado Mammoth.
That is the task at hand for the Vancouver Stealth as the two teams complete a home-and-home series that began Jan. 24 at Denver’s Pepsi Center with a 20-9 Mammoth victory.
Colorado was led by Adam Jones’ four goals and 10 points while Drew Westervelt had three goals and eight points. John Grant Jr. had a pair of goals and seven points. Sean Pollock chipped in with two goals and four helpers and Alex Turner scored four times.
The Stealth were led by Joel McCready’s three goals and one assist while new acquisition Corey Small had two goals and two helpers. Tyler Digby (two goals, one assist), Rhys Such (one goal, two assists) and Lewis Ratcliff (one goal, two assists) also found the back of the net.
The rematch goes Saturday night (Jan. 31) at the Langley Events Centre with a 7 p.m. start time.
“We have to play a bit more aggressive and dictate the game and not them dictate to us,” said Vancouver defender Chris O’Dougherty, who returns to the Stealth line-up.
“Your offence can be the best defence.”
When the teams met over the weekend, the Stealth had a good start to the game, leading 3-1 in the first quarter and up 4-3 early in the second. But then the wheels came off as Colorado took control, going on a 12-2 run which bridged the second and third quarters.
Colorado took advantage of 26 Stealth turnovers, plus controlled the game thanks to a 21-12 advantage in the face-off circle.
“We turned the ball over (and) those turnovers turned into goals,” said Stealth coach Dan Perreault.
“Colorado has the best offence in the league right now. We turn the ball over and we put the ball on their stick and we are giving them great opportunities to put the ball in the net.”
The Mammoth lead the NLL with 57 goals in three games while the Stealth have allowed a league-worst 68 goals in their previous four contests.
Not helping matters has been the fact Vancouver has been without three key defenders — O’Dougherty, Rory Smith and Tyler Garrison — for the bulk of the season.
Smith and Garrison are still out.
Perreault said that while the fill-ins have done a good job, they simply need more time and reps.
The Stealth have allowed a minimum of 14 goals every game, but Perreault wasn’t ready to lay the blame solely on his goaltenders.
“I am sure he (Tyler Richards) will admit he has to be a bit better but overall, I am not going to pin it on our goalies,” Perreault said.
“Last week, (Colorado) had some naked looks.”
The coach is confident his team can turn things around.
“Obviously it was a very discouraging result but fell credit to Colorado, they played well,” Perreault said.
“We are anxious; this is a great opportunity to get back and home recover.”
A key will be being more aggressive and not playing on their heels, the coach added.
“We didn’t have the ball and our defence was on the floor way too much,” he said. “We are going to have to value the ball a lot better this week.”
The Mammoth are not resting on the fact they are the lone unbeaten team in the NLL.
Head coach Chris Gill said their previous victory was their most complete game of the young season, but still sloppy. And he knows Vancouver will be motivated to atone for last week’s game.
“I know Vancouver is going to be different this week,” he said. “I have played with some of those players and coached a lot of the players over there and there is a lot of character and pride (in that locker room),” he said. “I am positive we are going to see a different team this week and a different game so we are looking forward to it.”