Washington Stealth forward Rhys Duch recorded his second sock-trick in as many games to lead the Stealth to a 14-10 victory over the Minnesota Swarm tonight at the Comcast Arena at Everett. The Stealth advance to the West Division Finals where they will take on the Edmonton Rush at the Key Arena on May 8.
The Stealth jumped out to an early lead in the game as Duch scored four goals in the first quarter. Jeff Zywicki added two in the first to give the Stealth a 6-1 lead going into the second quarter.
While the first quarter belonged to the top-seeded Stealth, the second stanza brought with it a counter punch from the number-four Swarm. With the Stealth up 8-2 after a pair of goals from Cam Sedgwick, the Swarm’s captain brought his team back. Aaron Wilson scored three straight following a Minnesota power play goal to make it 8-6 at the break.
“Minnesota had a great line-up out there and we knew their defense was stronger that earlier in the season,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall. “We know that the playoffs are never easy. It was a war out there from start to finish. Getting out to an 8-2 lead was huge.”
The remainder of the game was a back-and-forth battle. Duch scored his sixth goal of the night on a highlight reel behind-the-back shot with less than two minutes remaining in the third to give the Stealth a 10-8 lead. The game-winner came at the end of the third, when Zywicki deflected a ball into the net with just six seconds left on the clock. It gave the Stealth a three-goal advantage they would not relinquish.
For the second week in a row, Duch finished with six goals. Tonight he also added five assists. And while Duch has been on fire the past two weeks, so has Stealth goaltender Tyler Richards. Richards finished with 49 saves in the win.
“Rhys (Duch) was fantastic for us once again,” said Hall. “Tyler (Richards) came up big on a number of occasions and made some huge saves down the stretch to keep us in front. An unsung hero for us was Jamison Koesterer. He did a phenomenal job at the face-off circle. He gets better every game and was big for us in key situations.”
Koesterer finished below his season average winning 13 of his 28 face-offs, but he won all but one draw in the fourth quarter. He also added six loose balls.
The Stealth’s top-ranked penalty kill unit held the Swarm, who finished second in the NLL on the power play, to just one goal on five extra-man opportunities.
Zywicki finished with five goals and Sedgwick broke out of a two-game goal drought with two goals and four assists. Lewis Ratcliff was credited with three assists.
The Swarm was led by Wilson with three goals and an assist. Sean Pollock and Callum Crawford added two goals apiece. Goaltender Kevin Croswell made 30 saves in the loss.
The Stealth will take on the Edmonton Rush on May 8 in the West Division Finals. The Rush won two of three games between the teams this season. Due to scheduling conflicts at the Comcast Arena, the West Division Finals will take place at the Key Arena in Seattle, Wash., at 7:30pm. Tickets are on sale now and start at just $13. For ticket information, call 877-MY-75-TIX or log on to www.stealthlax.com.