EVERETT, Wash. — Rhys Duch delivered his 400th career point as the Washington Stealth powered to a full-game lead in the NLL West with an 11-8 win over the Minnesota Swarm, Sunday before 2,663 at Everett’s Comcast Arena.
With its second consecutive win over a West Division opponent, the now 6-4 Stealth moved a full game ahead of both Edmonton (5-5) and Calgary (5-5), which fell to the Rush on Saturday. Minnesota, now at 3-6, is fourth in the West followed by Colorado at 2-6.
“To be alone in first after ten games in the West is pretty gratifying,” said Stealth Coach Chris Hall. “Even when Minnesota came at us we held up pretty well. I think we earned that tonight.”
In what has become an up-and-down season in a highly competitive NLL West, Sunday’s victory marked the second time in the 2013 campaign where the Stealth put together back-to-back wins since downing defending NLL champion Rochester and then Colorado in the first two games of the season.
“I think we learn game-by-game the offense is showing better signs of chemistry,” Hall said.
For Duch, who entered the game with 395 points, his career milestone came in the unselfish fashion that has characterized the Stealth’s play all season – with his fourth assist of the night on a Brett Bucktooth goal just 30 seconds into the fourth.
“The mark of great offensive players is if the ball’s not going in for you to find another way to create offense,” Hall said.
And create offense he did.
With a goal and five assists, the Victoria native shared top-scoring honors with Athan Iannucci and Bucktooth who all had six points.
“Before the season I looked at it and figured I’d hit it at some point. But to be honest I had no idea,” said Duch. “I like to think that it’s 400 of many more to come.”
But it was Iannucci’s four goals and two assists, three coming back-to-back in just a little over a two-minute span in the second, that gave the Stealth the spark they needed to stay ahead of a late-game push by the Swarm.
“Iannucci had a big game for us tonight and that’s what he was here to do,” Hall said. “Having a guy like Iannucci pick up four goals is huge for us.”
After giving up the first goal of the game to Minnesota’s Kiel Matisz at 10:15 of the first, the Stealth’s Jeff Moleski scored his first of the season, knotting the game at 1-1 just 1:55 later.
For Moleski, who briefly left the game late in the second after taking a ball in the right ear-hole of his helmet, the goal was his only score of the night.
“He’s a pretty tough customer,” Hall said following the game after the Prince George, B.C. native returned to play in the second. “He couldn’t hear very much, but we checked him out. He’s fine. Obviously, we’re not going to put him on the floor if we’re putting anybody at risk.”
Just two-and-a-half minutes later, Lewis Ratcliff answered, beating Swarm goaltender Tyler Carlson for his 17th of the season. With the goal the Stealth took a 2-1 lead and never looked back.
The two scores ignited a five-goal run and seven of the next nine by the Stealth that would give Washington their largest lead of the day at 7-2 with 3:09 remaining in the half.
Washington’s mid-game goal-haul was only interrupted by Minnesota goals by Jay Card at 9:50 and Nik Bilic’s shot at 3:00 to narrow the Stealth lead to 7-3 and close out scoring in the half.
Where the first two quarters were all Washington, Minnesota worked it’s way back in the third, scoring three of five including a Callum Crawford goal at 2:25 to cut the lead to 8-6. But Iannucci’s fourth of the afternoon with just 43 seconds left in the quarter gave Washington a three-goal margin.
Crawford finished the day to lead all Minnesota scorers with two goals and one assist for three points. His two scores gave him 10 on the year.
In the fourth, Bucktooth opened scoring just 30 seconds into the quarter for his second of three on the afternoon to put the Stealth up by four.
“(Bucktooth) has great lacrosse sense,” said Hall. “His instincts are phenomenal and he’s a great team guy.”
Minnesota again worked its way back to within two with a Crawford goal at 11:23 and another by Shayne Jackson just 14 seconds later.
But that would be all, as Bucktooth’s third of the day iced the win with 4:44 to go.
For the Stealth, goaltender Tyler Richards finished the day with 43 saves on 51 shots for a .843 save percentage.
“(Richards) was marvelous,” Hall said. “Minnesota played very hard today, but we knew that they are young, talented and bring a lot of energy. We came up with a four-goal lead and a big part of that was some of the great saves that (Richards) made,” he said. “To have him playing this well is not only great for defense but for the whole team.”
The Stealth hit the road for a Saturday, March 9 date in Philadelphia followed by the season rubber match with the Swarm in Minnesota on March 16. After a week break, Washington returns home to close out the month with a Saturday, March 30 contest at Comcast Arena with West-rival Calgary.
Scoring 1 2 3 4 F
Minnesota 1 2 3 2 8
Washington 2 5 2 2 11
AROUND THE NLL
Thursday, Feb. 28
Friday, March 1
Saturday, March 2
Stealth forward Rhys Duch, with a goal and four assists notched his 400th career point.
With a single goal in today’s game, Lewis Ratcliff, now with 397 career goals, is just three shy of his 400th NLL goal.
Following Sunday’s game, Stealth fans jumped on the “Harlem Shake” bandwagon celebrating the NLL club’s sixth win of the season. See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwZb26MjtVU