Shamrocks’ stars have Stealth doing NLL playoff dance


For the first time since moving to Vancouver, the Stealth franchise finds its way into the National Lacrosse League playoffs and a handful of Victoria Shamrocks are leading the way.

The Stealth, which moved from Washington state in 2014 and are now based out of the Langley Events Centre, clinched a playoff berth with last weekend’s 13-7 win over the Colorado Mammoth.

A Mammoth loss at home tonight to the Saskatchewan Rush, combined with a Vancouver win at New England on Saturday, would give the Stealth a much desired home playoff date. Vancouver has won four of its last five at the LEC after losing its first four home dates.

“It’s been a couple of years of drought, so we’re happy to be back. It’s a validation. It’s nice to see the guys work so hard and get rewarded for it,” team president and general manager Doug Locker said of his 8-9 Stealth, who are chasing 9-8 Colorado for second place in the West. The Rush, two-time defending league champs, sit first at 12-4.

“It’s hard to make the playoffs in our league. As things were rolling, as they were in Washington, you just assume they are going to continue, but it’s hard and it makes this gratifying.”

Shamrock captain Corey Small leads the Stealth with 42 goals and 62 assists for 104 points in 17 games played. His three goals and four assists (which matched teammate Logan Schuss’s production in last week’s win) helped Small pass the 100-point plateau.

He is now within reach of the Stealth franchise record for points in a season with 111, held by two players — Stealth and Shamrocks teammate Rhys Duch, who tied the all-time mark last year, after Colin Doyle first established it in 2009.

“Yet again, it’s another career year for Corey. I thought he had a career year last year [84 points] and probably didn’t get the attention that he deserved then, just because we weren’t doing as well. To best that year, by a lot, is super impressive,” said Locker.

“He’s the guy you think of when you think of rewarding hard work. He’s at the top of his game right now and where he deserves to be in terms of the accolades he’s getting in the league.”

This season, Duch has 35 goals and 53 assists for 88 points in 16 games. Fellow Shamrocks Cory Conway, Evan Messenger and Jon Harnett are also on the Stealth roster.

Conway, currently out with injury, has three goals and 23 assists in eight games. The highly touted Messenger, who was drafted by the Shamrocks this season, has two goals and an assist in three games with Vancouver. Harnett was recently picked up and has provided his grit on defence for two outings.

“I don’t think we’ve had anybody, organizationally, who has been more consistent than Rhys,” Locker said. “When you look at his numbers, they are pretty much the same every year and impressive, the same.

“His year this year might be more impressive because he’s battled through nagging injury issues. He’s put up great numbers and he’s battled to do it,” Locker added of Duch, who won the league title with the Washington Stealth in 2010.

As for Messenger, Locker did not mince words in describing the young dynamo and junior grad.

“You guys are in for a great summer. In for a big treat,” he said of Messenger. “You’ve seen it the last two weeks with us. As I told him, we have our two most important games in the Calgary game (a 15-11 win) and Colorado and he’s in the lineup, which speaks volumes, I think.

“The first weekend against Calgary we put him in because Logan [Schuss] was in a bit of a slump and we wanted the extra pump on the left side. Logan goes for five that night and in a huge game against Colorado we went back to Evan.

“He’s athletic. He’s dynamic. He brings energy, scores goals — he’s the real deal and Shamrocks fans are going to be in for a real treat,” Locker added. “The spinoff we get here is you get an offence that, potentially, has Duch, Messenger and Small playing all summer and winter together.

“Then, depending on what happens with Cory [Conway] this summer, potentially we have those four and that’s some pretty unreal chemistry.”

Locker expects Conway back this weekend.

“And Harnett is a perfect fit for a Jamie Batley-coached team in that he gives you the grit, that presence and has that lacrosse IQ. He’s a real team guy and meshes on the back end,” said Locker.

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