The Washington Stealth will have to wait another week for their chance to clinch the National Lacrosse League West Division title. The Stealth (10-5) fell behind early and their furious second half comeback fell short, as they lost 14-13 to the Edmonton Rush (10-6) at the Comcast Arena.
Much like the last meeting between the two teams, which was a 14-13 overtime game on April 2, the difference was a pair of goals from the Rush’s Ryan Powell. Powell scored the final two Edmonton goals tonight, including the game-winner with just 1:39 left in regulation. It was Powell that scored the game-tying goal and the game-winner in overtime two weeks ago.
While it was Powell that propelled the Rush to victory tonight, the Stealth felt it was their play, especially in a first half where they found themselves down by four goals at the break, that led to their fifth loss of the season.
“We simply didn’t execute,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall following the game. “We haven’t learned that we can’t play three-quarters speed at the start and then go full speed. We buried ourselves in the first quarter.”
After the teams traded goals in the first five minutes of the game, the Rush scored three straight to end the first quarter with a 4-1 lead. Edmonton goaltender Matt Disher had a phenomenal first half, holding the league’s highest-scoring offense to just three goals in the first 30 minutes.
“We didn’t attack well in the first half,” said Hall. “Disher was spectacular, but we settled for outside shots and didn’t challenge him up close.”
The Stealth fell behind 8-3 early in the second half, but the offense found their rhythm midway through the third quarter. Paul Rabil, Luke Wiles and Rhys Duch each scored goals and Lewis Ratcliff scored twice to cut the deficit to two goals heading into the final stanza.
In the first 1:13 of the fourth quarter, the Stealth scored three times. Rabil netted the first and Ratcliff added his fourth and fifth goals of the night to give the Stealth their first lead of the game at 11-10. The Rush answered with two goals to regain the lead with less than ten minutes left in regulation. Duch scored his second of the night to tie the game at 12, but Powell had the answer for the Rush. He scored his only two goals of the game in the last five minutes. Ratcliff scored his sixth goal of the night with 36 seconds left, but it was all the Stealth could muster in the waning seconds to give Edmonton the 14-13 win.
Ratcliff led all scorers with six goals and two assists. Duch finished with two goals and five assists. Wiles recorded two and one and Rabil added a pair of goals. Stealth goaltender Matt Roik made 26 saves in his first loss of the season.
The Rush were led by Gavin Prout with seven points on two goals and five assists. Ryan Ward had four goals and Dean Hill finished with three goals and two assists. Disher made 48 saves in the win.
The Stealth has already clinched a playoff berth and at least a home game in the first round of the NLL playoffs on May 1. They will have their second opportunity to clinch the West Division title and home-floor advantage throughout the playoffs next week when they take on the Rochester Knighthawks at the Comcast Arena. That game is scheduled to begin at 7:30pm. Tickets start at just $13 and are available by calling 877-MY-75-TIX or at www.stealthlax.com.