Record maker rarin' for West test

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

During his minor lacrosse days and collegiate career, San Jose Stealth rookie Rhys Duch heard so many different pronunciations of his name, he likely lost count.

National Lacrosse League announcers must be quick learners.

"I think it's only been messed up maybe once this year, so that's more than I can say for any other year in my career," he said.

"I can't even recall where it was, I just remember being like, 'Oh, c'mon.' "

The Calgary Roughnecks could do their public address announcer a big favour -- for the record, it's pronounced Reece Dutch -- by keeping the feared freshman off the scoresheet Saturday, when they host the Stealth in the West Division final at the Saddledome.

That's not as simple as it sounds, though.

Duch has done more than just make a name for himself in his first professional campaign. The 22-year-old righty etched his name in the NLL history books, setting a rookie record with 35 goals and 89 points in 16 outings.

Colorado Mammoth marksman Gavin Prout had the previous mark after notching 82 points as a rookie with the New York Saints in 2002.

To put Duch's stat line into perspective, Roughnecks captain Tracey Kelusky collected just 51 points as a freshman, while Riggers setup ace Josh Sanderson had 64 points in his first full season.

"I didn't really even know that was a stat they kept. I hadn't really thought about it at all. I was trying not to learn the number during the season because I wanted to be more focused on winning the games and things like that," said Duch, a Victoria native who plays summer ball for his hometown Shamrocks.

"But then, in one of the articles that was written online, they put the number in there. I didn't even really know until I was about 10 points off it, but it was really exciting. Obviously, it became a goal once I knew it was achievable.

"It was a record that not a whole lot of people thought would be broken recently, and I was lucky enough to be put in a position to use my skills to get up there."

After four years at Stony Brook University in New York, where he was named a two-time field lacrosse All-American, Duch was selected third overall in September's NLL draft. His arrival helped the Stealth cement their place as one of the most dangerous attacks in the 12-team loop.

When the Roughnecks and Stealth square off Saturday, seven of the NLL's top 16 point-collectors will be on the floor. San Jose's stockpile of offensive weapons is headlined by Colin Doyle (38-73-111), Duch and Jeff Zywicki (32-46-78).

Calgary counters with Sanderson (29-74-103) Kelusky (31-53-84), veteran Kaleb Toth (33-47-80) and super sophomore Dane Dobbie (41-35-76).

"I think both teams, we have a lot of faith in our offences," Duch said.

"I think it's going to be a real defensive battle -- whose defence steps up to the plate this weekend -- because both teams can score a lot of goals."


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