For the third straight game and the fifth time this season, the Washington Stealth found themselves in overtime. Tonight, the Stealth escaped with a 16-15 overtime win over the Minnesota Swarm (6-8) at the Comcast Arena at Everett. Rhys Duch scored his fifth goal of the night on the game-winner 30 seconds into the overtime period.
The win gives the Stealth a one-and-half-game lead over the Swarm for second place in the West Division and the opportunity to host a first round playoff game. A win in the regular season finale on April 16 against the Rochester Knighthawks will guarantee the Stealth finish as the second seed in the West.
The Stealth jumped out to an early lead tonight, as Duch and Lewis Ratcliff scored two goals apiece to give the Stealth a 4-2 lead after the first fifteen minutes of action.
The Swarm battled back into the game with a six-goal second quarter, including three by Ryan Benesch. The Stealth didn’t go quietly, scoring four of its own in the second frame. Ratcliff scored three in the second and finished with five first half goals as the teams entered the halftime break tied at eight.
The offenses continued to produce in the second half, with nine goals combined in the third quarter. The game featured twelve ties and eleven lead changes, including four lead changes in the third quarter alone. Duch scored twice in the third as the Stealth gained its first two-goal advantage since the first quarter at 13-11. But Aaron Wilson scored a power play goal with less than thirty seconds remaining in the quarter to pull the Swarm within one heading into the final stanza.
The Swarm scored back-to-back goals to open the fourth quarter scoring, taking a 14-13 lead with less than five minutes left in regulation. Stealth defenseman Eric Martin tied the score with 3:57 remaining, but once again the Swarm pulled ahead as Wilson tallied his fourth goal of the game with 2:07 left on the clock.
With 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Swarm gained possession and quickly called timeout. Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall pulled goaltender Matt Roik in favor of the extra man, a move that paid off as the Stealth forced a turnover in the Swarm’s zone, giving the Stealth offense one more chance to send the game into overtime. Ratcliff capitalized on the opportunity, tallying his sixth goal of the game with just 20 seconds left in regulation.
In overtime, Stealth face-off specialist Bob Snider, who went 25-for-33 at the face-off circle on the night, won the draw and the ball ended up in the stick of Duch. Duch drove to the net and pulled off a spectacular move to beat Swarm goaltender Nick Patterson and secure the 16-15 victory for the Stealth just 30 seconds into the overtime period.
“He continues to do it when the game is on the line,” Hall said of Duch after the game. “Great players step up in big situations and he’s lived up to the nickname ‘Clutch Duch’. We knew we wanted to go to him, we did and he delivered.”
For Duch, game-winners have become routine. Tonight marks the fifth game-clincher for “Clutch Duch” in the Stealth’s eight wins this season. The overtime goal capped a ten-point night for Duch, who tallied five goals and five assists. He trails only his fellow forward Ratcliff for the NLL scoring lead. Duch has 84 points in 15 games this season and is tied for the league lead with 40 goals.
Speaking of Ratcliff, he led all scorers in the game with eleven points on six goals and five assists. He leads the NLL with 88 points and is third in the league in both goals (39) and assists (49). Martin tallied a pair of goals and added an assist and Craig Conn added a goal and four assists.
The Stealth dominated the loose ball battle, collecting 92 while the Swarm grabbed 61. Duch led the way with 12 loosies, while Snider added 11.
Roik made 22 saves in 38 minutes of action for his third win of the season.
For the Swarm, Benesch tallied three goals and four assists while Wilson recorded four goals and two assists. Kevin Ross added a pair of goals and three assists. Patterson and Kevin Croswell combined for 44 saves in the loss.
The Stealth returns to action on April 16 to face the Rochester Knighthawks at the Comcast Arena. Tickets for the game start at just $13 and are available by calling 877-MY-75-TIX or on www.stealthlax.com.