The Washington Stealth improved to 5-0 tonight with a hard-fought 12-11 victory over West Division rival Colorado Mammoth in front of 15,242 fans at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. Jeff Zywicki earned the game’s MVP honors with nine points (3g, 6a), leading the Stealth as they become the last remaining undefeated team in the National Lacrosse League.
The last time these two teams met was in the season opener where the Stealth picked up a convincing 17-8 victory. Tonight, it took over 37 minutes for the Stealth to claim their first lead of the game.
The Mammoth, who had won their previous two games to even their record at 2-2 going into the contest, jumped out to a quick lead with a goal just over a minute into the game. Stealth assistant captain Cam Sedgwick scored five minutes later to tie the score at one. The Mammoth would add another goal late in the second quarter to give Colorado a 2-1 lead after the first frame.
The Stealth penalty kill, who lead the league with just three goals allowed this season, came up huge in the first quarter, shutting down the Mammoth power play on two early man-up opportunities. They didn’t allow a power play goal in the game on five chances.
In the second quarter, the Mammoth took a two-goal lead early on as Colorado’s leading scorer, Jamie Shewchuk scored his first goal of the night. The Mammoth scored two of the next three goals to give Colorado a 5-2 lead midway through the second stanza. The Stealth came roaring back however, outscoring Colorado 4-1 the rest of the half to tie the score 6-6 at halftime. Zywicki had a hand in each goal, recording two goals and two assists.
Colorado started the second half scoring just over two minutes into the third quarter on a goal by Cory Conway. Reigning NLL Offensive Player of the Week Lewis Ratcliff tied the score with a power play goal less than three minutes later. The Stealth scored on two of their six power plays in the game. The second tally came midway through the third as Zywicki completed his hat trick to give the Stealth their first lead of the game, 8-7. Alex Gajic scored his only goal of the night with 30 seconds left to even the score at eight. But with one second left in the third, Rhys Duch scored from long range to give the Stealth a 9-8 lead going into the final quarter.
The Stealth scored twice in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter to extend their lead to three. They wouldn’t trail again.
After a Colorado goal cut the lead to two, the Washington penalty kill shut down two more Mammoth man-up opportunities. Shewchuk tallied a highlight reel behind-the-back goal to make the score 11-10 with 3:46 left in the game, but Sedgwick’s second goal of the game kept the Stealth in front by two. Colorado pulled their goalie and scored with an extra man with just nine seconds left to make it 12-11. But Jamison Koesterer, who won 18-of-26 face-offs in the game, earned the ensuing face-off for the Stealth who ran out the clock and picked up the 12-11 victory.
Zywicki’s nine points led all scorers in the game. Ratcliff scored two goals and assisted on four others while Duch recorded two goals and three assists. Luke Wiles finished with four points (2g, 2a), Sedgwick had two goals and an assist and Tom Johnson scored a goal and added two assists.
The Stealth came up huge in the loose ball battle, picking up 71 to the Mammoth’s 60. Captain Jason Bloom lead the charge with ten loose balls.
Goaltender Tyler Richards earned his third win of the season, allowing 11 goals on 47 shots.
The Mammoth were led by Conway and Jed Prossner, tallying three goals and one assist each. Andrew Leyshon recorded 31 saves in the loss.
Going into tonight, the Toronto Rock were the NLL’s only other undefeated team. The Rock lost 16-8 to the Rochester Knighthawks earlier this evening, giving the Stealth the league’s top record at 5-0.
The Stealth return home on February 5 to take on the Minnesota Swarm. The West Division clash is scheduled for 8pm at the Comcast Arena. Tickets for the game are available by calling 877-MY-75-TIX or at www.stealthlax.com.