The Washington Stealth earned the top overall seed in the 2010 National Lacrosse League playoffs tonight with a 14-9 victory over the Rochester Knighthawks at the Comcast Arena at Everett. Rhys Duch recorded his first NLL sock trick (six goals in a game) and Tyler Richards made 46 saves as the Stealth finish the regular season with an 11-5 record. The Stealth will face the Minnesota Swarm in the opening round of the playoffs on May 1.
Throughout the course of the season, Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall has preached the importance of starting games strongly. At times the team has failed to do that, but that was not the case tonight. Paul Rabil scored just 42 seconds into the game to open the floodgates for the league’s highest-scoring offense. Duch got his night started with four first quarter goals and Jeff Zywicki added another to give the Stealth a 6-0 lead after one quarter of play.
“We clearly solved our first quarter problems tonight,” said Hall, whose 11 wins this season give him 61 wins in his coaching career, third-most in the league’s 24-year history. “Our offense was on fire out of the gates. Duch was fantastic. It was a crushing start for them and our best start to a game this year.”
The Stealth continued to pour it on in the second as Duch added his fifth midway through the quarter to make it 7-0. It wasn’t until the 8:50 mark of the second stanza that Richards allowed a goal. He made 30 of his 46 saves in the first half.
“We all got to see the incredible stick skills of Jon Grant and Gary Gait tonight and Tyler (Richards) was a wall,” said Hall. “He was steady, strong and made huge saves. It was inspiring for the whole team.”
Grant put his skills on display in the second half, recording a sock trick of his own in the final two quarters. It wasn’t enough to get the Knighthawks back in it however, and Duch’s goal 1:26 into the third quarter proved to be the game-winner as the Stealth cruised to the 14-9 victory.
Duch added three assists to go with his six goals. Lewis Ratcliff, who scored 24 goals in the last five games, played the role of set up man tonight with seven of his eight points on assists. Rabil, Tom Johnson and Zywicki had two goals and one assist each.
Once again, the Stealth special teams played a huge role in the victory. The power play unit was on fire, scoring on six of their eight extra-man opportunities. The penalty kill unit, who entered the game tops in the NLL, was equally as impressive. They allowed just one power play goal in seven chances. Jamison Koesterer dominated the face-off circle, winning 19 of the 26 draws he took.
“We have worked extremely hard all season long,” said Hall. “Tonight was very rewarding for the whole organization. It’s a feather in our cap, but now teams will be chasing us. It’s difficult to win any game in the NLL; playoff games are even tougher.”
Playing at home throughout the playoffs may make things a bit easier for Coach Hall and the Stealth, who finish the season 6-2 in the friendly confines of the Comcast Arena. They take on the fourth-seeded Minnesota Swarm on May 1. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:30pm. Tickets are available now, along with three-game playoff packs which start at just $36. Call 877-MY-75-TIX or log on to www.stealthlax.com for more details.