Any other opponent for the Vancouver Stealth this week and Kevin Crowley would be feverishly rooting on the Langley Events Centre crew.
His second-favourite team happens to be playing his first.
Crowley, 28, a right-handed sharpshooter from New Westminster who is now calling Philadelphia home base, leads the New England Black Wolves (8-9) up against the Stealth (8-9) on Saturday (4 p.m., TSN 1410) at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., as part of the final weekend of the National Lacrosse League regular season.
The Stealth have already qualified for the playoffs and will face the Colorado Mammoth on the May 6 weekend, but a Vancouver win Saturday, coupled with a loss Friday by the Mammoth (9-8) to the visiting Saskatchewan Rush (11-5), would give Vancouver home-floor advantage over Colorado for the one-game opening-round set.
This is new ground for the Stealth. They had failed to the make postseason in their first three seasons based out the LEC. They’ve had trouble filling the building. There seems to be a buzz about the team now, though. If you’re a lacrosse person, like a Crowley, you can sense there’s a window here for franchise.
“I try to promote the Stealth as much as I can,” said Crowley, pointing to things like banging the proverbial Stealth drum during youth clinics with his Fusion Lacrosse company that he runs during routine trips home to visit family in New Westminster.
“I want to see them be successful. I want to try to help put fans in the seats for them. I want to see the growth of the sport in B.C.”
If you’re thinking that Crowley might mail it in against the Stealth because of all that, consider that Saturday will mark his 100th NLL regular-season game and he’s competitive enough that he’s already totalled 450 points, including 201 goals.
He was also quick to point out, “I love it with the Black Wolves,” in the midst of all the talking up of Vancouver. Keep in mind, too, that New England can clinch a home playoff date with a win over Vancouver and a loss by the Toronto Rock (8-9) to the Buffalo Bandits (6-11).
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Crowley, who played collegiate field at Stony Brook in New York and suited up for the Philadelphia Wings before they moved to New England, is tied for third in the NLL in goals this season, with 40. His 78 points leave him 11th in the circuit and second on his team, behind the 95 produced by fellow righty Shawn Evans.
Keeping those two in check would go long way to Vancouver succeeding, and the Stealth may have to try to do it without veteran defenders Matt Beers and Cliff Smith, who could be both looking at supplementary discipline from the league office for incidents in the late going of Vancouver’s 13-7 win at home over the Mammoth last Saturday.
Beers received a double game misconduct after a fight with Bryce Sweeting with 31 seconds remaining. With the ball yet to come into play after that bout, Smith scrapped Stephen Keogh and picked up a match penalty for his troubles.
Keogh seemed to challenge Vancouver goalie Tye Belanger prior to Smith engaging him, and Keogh was assessed an instigator penalty when the dust settled. That could help Vancouver’s chances of Smith being let off the hook.
Word on suspensions is expected late Thursday.
Beers is listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. Smith comes in at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds. Combined, they have 215 games of NLL regular season experience.
If they’re suspended, the Stealth will likely go with Travis Cornwall, who was a healthy scratch last week, and either Brandon Clelland or Ryan Wagner, who are both currently on the practice roster. That trio together has 99 combined games, and they won’t bring the some physical aspect; Clelland is the smallest of the three, at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds.
The winner of that one game between the Stealth and Mammoth moves on to take on the Rush in an abbreviated best-of-three — home and away, followed by a 10-minute mini-game if the teams are knotted at 1-1.
The Stealth won three of four from the Mammoth this season, including both games at the Pepsi Center in Denver.