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

Missing teen reportedly spotted in Northwest

Police, family greatly concerned over disappearance of Colten Therrin Fleury

Police, Conservation see busy long weekend

Arrests, tickets and warnings follow joint-enforcement initiative

Injury forces end to hiker’s Pacific Crest Trail attempt

Due home this week, Janine Wilson still determined to finish challenge in the future

Vancouver choir to perform joint-concert with two local ensembles

Concert will take place on Saturday, May 26 at the Knox United Church

Construction of LNG Canada plant still on hold

Construction will only begin following a positive final investment decision

Syrian refugee fathers thriving at Skeena Sawmills in Terrace

With work at the mill, the Al Kadro family bought a home and is settling into the local community

B.C. RCMP swoop in to save injured eagle

An eagle with a broken wing now in a recovery facility after RCMP rescue near Bella Coola

Bug spray 101: Health Canada wants you to stay bite free

Health Canada is reminding Canadians to use bug spray and other insect repellents safely

Unions reject CP Rail contract offers

Both meeting Friday to determine next steps; 72 hours notice required before strike action.

B.C. jewellers warn public about fake gold scam

‘They are playing on people’s sympathy and their greed’

Former B.C. premier says pot industry about to enter Wild West

Mike Harcourt says Canada is about to enter a new gold rush with many dreaming of striking it rich

Hunt continues for two suspects in Ontario restaurant explosion

The explosion left 15 people injured, but all victims have now been released from hospital

B.C. teacher charged with sexual offences involving two teens

Henry Kang, 50, of Abbotsford charged with two counts each sex assault and sexual exploitation

Toronto Raptors star to hold basketball camp in B.C.

DeMar DeRozan is hosting a four-day camp for players aged 6-16 at the University of Victoria

Most Read