ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Washington Stealth dropped the trailer of it’s two-game weekend road swing after battling back in the final minutes to within a goal of Minnesota, but were unable to convert the tying goal, falling to the Swarm 15-14, Saturday at Xcel Energy Center before 8,782 in St. Paul, Minn.
After struggling early, the game came down to a final possession for the Stealth after forward Athan Iannucci’s goal at 41 seconds brought Washington to within a goal of the tie.
A re-draw on the ensuing face-off gave Washington possession of the ball, but the Stealth were unable to get the ball to the shooter in the final seconds, ending the rally and giving Minnesota its first NLL win of the season.
“They buried us early and it was too far to come back,” said Stealth Coach Chris Hall whose squad took 74 shots – 58 on goal, only converting 14 for scores.
“Our shooting has got to get better,” said Hall. “You’re not going to win many games at that percentage.”
But along with troubles finding the net, it was the Stealth’s inability to execute on its final play drawn up by Stealth coaches that frustrated Hall.
“We felt that the first (passing) option was open but we opted for a more difficult option down the middle,” said Hall. “It was a difficult pass to handle. On the surface, when you have an opportunity late in the game and we’ve come back as far as we had you have to finish,” he said. “We didn’t execute and that is frustrating.”
With the loss, Washington, which had won its opening game of the weekend set Friday in Edmonton, slipped to 3-2 on the season, but maintained control of NLL West with a full game over the rest of the field.
After holding a slim 4-3 lead at the end of the first, The Stealth fell behind by as much as five goals late in the second after the Swarm took advantage of missed Washington scoring opportunities.
Giving up five unanswered goals to start the quarter, the Stealth were only able to stop the bleeding with 2:20 remaining on Lewis Ratcliff’s second score of the night to make it 8-5.
“Goals are too hard to come by,” said Hall. “We need to be more accountable for giving up goals. We were down by five and that was the difference in the game.”
Again taking advantage of its opportunities, the Swarm rebounded with Kiel Matisz and Ryna Benesch completing early hat tricks over the next 1:28 of the second.
Matisz’s third with 1:48 remaining extended the margin to 9-5, while Benesch’s score just under a minute later to make it 10-5 before Duch netted his second of the night with five seconds remaining in the half to narrow the Swarm lead to four at 10-6.
Duch’s goal launched a four goal Stealth run through 8:26 of the third that eventually narrowed the deficit to two goals at 11-9. But Minnesota would score the next two of three to extend their lead back to four to close out the quarter.
In the final set, Iannucci finally got on the board with scores at 12:41 and 9:36 to bring the Stealth back to within two.
Minnesota Captain Andrew Suitor, who was helped from the game early in the fourth after rolling an ankle, returned to the game to score the Swarm’s 15th and final goal at 7:57 of the fourth. The goal quashed the Stealth’s momentum and ultimately proved to be the game winner.
Two minutes later, Duch would bring the Stealth back to within two on his third of the night, and with just 41 seconds remaining, Iannucci netted his third to make it 15-14, setting up the final tying opportunity.
“Mental errors and stupid mistakes made the difference,” said Duch who along with Ratcliff led all scorers with three goals and five assists for eight points apiece. “We got frustrated easily. Minnesota just took advantage of our mistakes.”
Stealth transition man Bob Snider led both teams winning 22 of 33 face-offs along with 17 loose ball grabs and a goal on the night.
Washington was three for five on power play attempts. Minnesota was four of six.
Minnesota, now at 1-2, trails the Stealth in the West along with Edmonton, Calgary and Colorado, all by a single game.
The Stealth next see action in a Feb. 2 road date with NLL defending champion Rochester in New York. Washington returns 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 4 2 4 4 14
Minnesota 3 7 4 1 15
Around the NLL (Scores for Saturday, Jan. 26)
Lewis Ratcliff scored his second consecutive hat trick with his score at 13:24 of the third.
With tonight’s game, Stealth defender Curtis Hodgson matched Gary Rosysi (2000-08) with the Stealth all-time record of 132 games played.
Stealth Captain Kyle Sorensen won the battle of the brothers over younger brother Brock. For the Stealth, Kyle had five loose balls and four penalty minutes. For the Swarm, younger brother Brock finished with two loose balls and two penalty minutes.
Stealth defender Chris McElroy notched is 100th career NLL game in tonight’s game