Stealth riding hot goaltender Richards

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

At just 22, maybe Tyler Richards is too young to realize he shouldn't be where he is right now.

It usually takes several years for a goaltender to develop into a bonafide National Lacrosse League starter.

But the Coquitlam, B.C., product has carried the load for the San Jose Stealth down the stretch and into the playoffs.

He won three straight divisional games to get the Stealth into the post-season, then helped beat the Portland LumberJax in the first round.

Since he took over in goal, the Stealth have been deadly, and they ride Richards into tonight's meeting with the Calgary Roughnecks in the West Division final.

"I'm not sure it was because I was the starter, because Chris Hall had just taken over (as head coach) and we got a few guys back," said Richards, who had a 10.83 goals-against average and .803 save percentage in 10 games.

"It all came together at the same time. I happened to be the guy in net who went on that streak.

"But I don't mind being the guy."

The Stealth did get defenders Shaydon Santos and Steve Holmes back for the stretch drive, plus they acquired former Rigger Andrew Biers at the trade deadline.

But Richards has solidified it all.

He comes with credentials. Richards was the Western Lacrosse Association's first-team all-star goalie this past summer playing for New Westminster.

Although he spent all of 2008 with the Stealth, even living in San Jose, he didn't play any games.

He started this season behind Matt Roik and Aaron Bold on the depth chart but has now taken over from those older players.

"It was a bit surprising," Richards said. "I started the year as the third here, so to be going into the second round as the starter isn't what you expect.

"At the same time, you don't want to see your teammates fail in order to achieve that goal.

"It was a little bit surprising, but not overwhelming."

Stealth teammates have confidence in the youngster.

"What makes Tyler so good is his demeanour," said captain Colin Doyle. "He just believes he's ready for this. Mentally, he's always prepared and focused.

"It's a rarity that he lets in soft goals. He's giving us a chance to win every game and that's what you want from a goaltender."

Although one would expect a young guy to wilt under the playoff pressure, Richards isn't feeling it.

"Going into Calgary and facing the No. 1 seed, the pressure has to be on them," Richards said. "We're just going along for the ride and seeing what happens.

"All the guys are fairly confident we can go in there and win."


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