ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Battling back from a three-goal deficit in the second half, the Washington Stealth put multiple shots on Rochester goaltender Matt Vinc late in the final quarter, but were repeatedly turned away, falling to the defending NLL champions 7-6, Saturday night before 7,914 at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.
For the Stealth, the loss was the second in the past three consecutive road games and evened their record to 3-3 on the season, dropping the club in the West race to a half-game behind Calgary, which defeated Edmonton on Saturday,18-15.
Rochester, which started the season at 0-3 including an opening night loss to the Stealth at Comcast Arena, notched their first win of the year.
“We had good opportunities late in the game but we couldn’t get it by them,” said Washington Coach Chris Hall, whose squad had 10 opportunities in the final minutes of the fourth including a potential game-changer by forward Athan Iannucci who was stopped on a cross-crease sliding save by Vinc with 4:15 remaining.
Trailing 5-2 at 12:36 the third after the Knighthawks’ forward Mike Accursi beat Washington goalkeeper Tyler Richards for the third of three unanswered scores, the Knighthawks appeared to put the Stealth away. But Washington went on to score four of the next five goals extending into the fourth to eventually knot the game at 6-6 giving them new life.
The Stealth’s game-tying score came just 2:10 into the fourth as defender Mike Grimes was set up by Chris O’Dougherty and Kyle Sorensen before firing a shot past Vinc and into the top corner of the Rochester net.
Still hungry for its first win of the season, Rochester then put itself back into position to take the game.
With 9:48 remaining, Knighthawks forward Johnny Powless took a feed from Joe Walters and Stephen Keogh, beating Richards for the eventual winning goal.
Despite the game-winning score, Hall’s enthusiasm for his goaltender’s performance wasn’t dampened.
“When your goalie plays that well you need to find a way to get him a win,” said Hall on a game that was perhaps Richards’ best performance of the 2013 season, facing 55 Rochester shots including 30 in the first half.
“He did everything he possible could have done to give us an opportunity to win the game,” said Hall. “When you only give up seven goals, that should be enough to get a win in this league.”
On average the Stealth have scored just over 13 goals per game before tonight’s game. The loss marked the Stealth’s lowest scoring output since it dropped a 16-5 decision to Edmonton last January.
In the final minutes of the fourth, Washington had nine strong shots by high producing forwards Rhys Duch, Lewis Ratcliff, Cliff Smith and Athan Iannucci, but failed to convert.
After a change in possession, Iannucci again took on Vinc, who earned Player of the Game honors with 41 saves, but was robbed on a sliding cross-crease save that ultimately made the difference in the game.
“It was a heck of an effort trying to get that goal,” Hall said. “They came up with a huge stop there at the end. It’s tough when you get opportunities and someone makes a big-time save on you.”
In the first, Washington’s first goal came on a powerplay by Ratcliff who received a feed from Smith and Brett Bucktooth to knot the game at 1-1. Rochester added their second goal of the quarter with 1:58 remaining – a powerplay shot by Cory Vitarelli following a cross check penalty by the Stealth’s Tim Henderson.
“Our powerplay wasn’t very efficient. It’s not performing well,” said Hall on his squad’s extra-man performance that included just one goal on three attempts and gave up a short-handed score. “The power play was flat. We didn’t shoot the ball well. In this league, the powerplay has got to be performing well.”
In the second, the Stealth opened scoring at 13:58 with Mike Grimes taking a pass from Tyler Garrison for the first full-strength score of the game to make it 2-2. Rochester again moved ahead by one with Stephen Keogh scoring at 9:24. Just over two-and-half minutes later, Jamieson made it 4-2 to close out the half.
In the third, the Knighthawks completed its three-goal run on Accursi’s goal at 12:36 to extend their lead to 5-2 before Duch beat Vinc with 6:05 remaining for the first of four goals that would eventually tie the game at 6-6.
Grimes topped Washington scorers with two goals and as assist for three points, while Ratcliff finished with two goals. Smith had had two assists. Iannucci had a goal and an assist for two points on 11 shots.
For the Knighthawks, Dan Dawson had three assists, Vitarelli had a goal and two assists for three points and Cody Jamieson finished with two goals.
The Stealth return home to Comcast Arena for a 6:45 p.m. Saturday, February 9 matchup with West Division rival Colorado.
Scoring 1 2 3 4 F
Washington 1 1 2 2 6
Rochester 2 2 1 2 7
Around the NLL (Scores for Saturday, Feb. 2)