Duch ready to lead Vancouver Stealth in NLL playoff series against Colorado

Duch ready to lead Stealth into playoffs

Rhys Duch knew the Vancouver Stealth were becoming more popular when he had to start staying later at the team’s arena to pose for photos and sign autographs for fans.

After the Stealth clinched their first National Lacrosse League playoff berth since moving to Vancouver in 2014, Duch noticed the meet-and-greet sessions at the Langley Events Centre were lasting longer and longer. The Stealth hope to ride that swell of fan support into a successful post-season run starting Saturday when they host the Colorado Mammoth in the Western Division semifinal.

“We’re building Stealth fans in Vancouver now, instead of just lacrosse fans,” said Duch. “I think for the franchise that’s huge and important. For our ownership, management, I think creating that sort of community around the Stealth is important.

“Vancouver is a lacrosse hotbed, everyone knows that, but our attendance hasn’t always displayed that. I think that we’re now creating Stealth fans and not just lacrosse players and that’s very, very important.”

Duch, who was drafted by the Stealth in 2008 when the franchise was in San Jose, has been a focal point of their offence for years. He won a Champion’s Cup in 2010 after the team moved to Everett, Wash., one of three title game appearances over a four-year span.

The Victoria native played junior lacrosse for his hometown Shamrocks in the Western Lacrosse Association and knows how important the sport is in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.

“This is lacrosse at the highest level. Obviously, they get to see the WLA and some of the great players that play there but the NLL is another calibre above it,” said Duch. “I think it’s great for the young kids coming up. Even though it’s a very popular sport here, it’s still growing and the opportunity to see guys playing at this level is huge.

“I think it’s important not only for our franchise but for the lacrosse community that the Stealth are there. It’s going to help the sport grow.”

The 30-year-old Duch and teammate Corey Small have led a resurgent Vancouver offence this season. Both players gave credit to the coaching staff for putting an emphasis on fitness between games.

Duch has 38 goals and 56 assists while Small is having a career season with 46 goals and 65 assists. Small, 29, was third in the NLL with a team-leading 111 points. 

“Just lifestyle,” Small said of the changes he has made. “Getting a little older, a little more mature, putting a little more effort into my off-season fitness and taking the time through the week to get to the gym a little more.”

Vancouver and Colorado had identical 9-9 regular-season records. Small believes the Stealth can prevail Saturday if they stay focused.

“Staying even emotionally throughout the game is going to be important,” he said. “There’s going to be times where we’re going to be on a run, where we can’t get ourselves too high. There’s going to be times where Colorado might get a few goals and we can’t get too down.

“We just have to have the belief that no matter what the situation is we’re going to win the game.”

Vancouver is one of three Canadian teams in the NLL post-season. The Toronto Rock host the New England Black Wolves on Saturday in the East semifinal and the Saskatchewan Rush will take on the winner of the Stealth-Mammoth game in the West final.

___

Follow @jchidleyhill on Twitter

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Political theatre shines light on womens issues

The Vagina Monologues returned to Fernie last weekend for the second time,… Continue reading

Local rink heading to curling provincials

The Mens Masters East-West playdown took place in Sparwood from February 2-4.… Continue reading

Kootenay East MLA reacts to Throne Speech

Tom Shypitka says speech falls short of intended mark.

Specialist shortage affecting elective surgeries

East Kootenay Regional Hospital recruiting additional anesthetists

Youth compete in winter Olympics

Bundled up under layers of fluorescent clothing, children excitedly participated in École… Continue reading

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Canucks came out hot, beat Bruins 6-1

Loui Eriksson scores twice, catapulting Vancouver to a lopsided victory over Boston

B.C. man brings dog to court as ‘best witness’

Man is defending himself on charges of uttering threats, possessing weapon for dangerous purposes

Vancouver artist’s cartoon of Florida school shooting resonates

Cartoon shows football coach, one of the victims, meeting others killed in school shootings

Trudeau family arrives in India for state visit

Seven-day visit includes meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Military seeks DNA experts to help ID missing war dead

Federal program recovers, identifies and arranges burials for Canada’s nearly 28,000 missing war dead

B.C. files new legal action against TransMountain pipeline

Province tries to uphold City of Burnaby bylaws, provoking Alberta

BCHL Today: Powell River stuns Vernon and BCHL grads lead Team Canada

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Most Read