The playoff hopes of the San Jose Stealth took a hit today, as the Portland Lumberjax stole a 14-12 victory at the HP Pavilion. It was a game of runs, and Portland had the final say with seven unanswered goals in the second half from which the Stealth could not recover.
The Stealth (4-8) got things started with a power play goal from Rhys Duch just over two minutes into the game. The Stealth, who had the second-ranked power play unit in the NLL coming into the game, converted on five of their seven extra-man opportunities in the game.
Midway through the first, Portland found their way onto the scoreboard thanks to a Derek Malawsky tally at the 8:17 mark. Cory Conway put the Jax in front five minutes later. The Stealth evened the score before the end of the opening frame when a long-range shot from Paul Rabil made its way past Portland goaltender Matt Disher.
The second quarter brought about the first big run of the game. Each team scored within the first five minutes of the quarter before Portland rattled off four straight to take a 7-3 lead. The Stealth stopped the run with a Colin Doyle power play goal with 11 seconds remaining in the half. The score was 7-4 in favor of Portland at the break.
The Stealth came out blazing in the second half. They went on a run of their own, scoring seven unanswered goals in the quarter. Duch scored four times during the run, giving the Stealth an 11-7 advantage with less than a minute left in the third. In addition to the four-goal lead, Portland was also penalized, giving San Jose a man advantage for the remainder of the quarter. But it was at that point Portland stole the momentum. With twelve seconds left in the quarter, Scott Stewart scored a shorthanded goal to end the Stealth run and cut the Portland deficit to three.
In the fourth, the Lumberjax took control, scoring six straight. Three goals during the run came on the power play. They took a 14-11 lead with just over two minutes left in regulation. Cam Sedgwick scored for the Stealth with 1:47 left, but it was the only goal they could muster in the closing minutes. Portland went on to the 14-12 victory.
Duch lead the Stealth offense with five goals and three assists. He also led the team with ten loose balls. Doyle finished with a goal and seven assists. Sedgwick, Rabil and Eric Martin each scored twice. Matt Roik made 28 saves in the loss.
Portland was led by game MVP Brodie Merrill, who was credited with three goals, six assists and twelve loose balls. Disher earned the win with 37 saves.
The loss puts the Stealth 1.5 games behind the Minnesota Swarm for the fourth and final West Division playoff spot. The Swarm face the division-leading Calgary Roughnecks tonight. Portland remains in second place with a 6-4 record.
The Stealth travel to Portland tomorrow for the back end of this weekend’s home-and-home series. The game is scheduled to begin at 3:00pm PST and can be seen live on the NLL Network at NLL.com.