The Washington Stealth snapped a three-game losing streak tonight, beating the defending National Lacrosse League Champion Calgary Roughnecks 12-11 at the Pengrowth Saddledome. The win keeps the Stealth atop the West Division standings at 7-3 on the season.
The Stealth, weary of their slow starts in recent games, came out firing on all cylinders as Jeff Zywicki scored the first two goals of the game. The second came shorthanded, giving the Stealth their league-leading tenth shorthanded goal. Rhys Duch gave the Stealth a 3-0 lead on the power play with twelve minutes left in the first. Stealth goaltender Matt Roik held the Roughnecks to just one goal in the opening frame, making 14 saves in the process. Tracey Kelusky tallied Calgary’s lone goal in the quarter. The score was 4-1 in favor of the Stealth after one.
“We are lucky to have two great goaltenders,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall. “It was Roiker’s turn and he made a number of big saves for us.”
Kelusky kept the Roughnecks in the game, netting three straight goals to knot the score at four just five minutes into the second quarter. Kaleb Toth gave Calgary its first lead of the game at the 8:25 mark, but the Stealth answered with goals from Luke Wiles and Duch to make it 6-5 at the halftime break.
The Stealth came out and took command of the game in the third as Lewis Ratcliff made it 7-5 just 35 seconds into the second half. Peter Morgan and Cam Sedgwick continued the rally with back-to-back power play goals to extend the lead to four. But the defending champs battled back with three straight to end the third, cutting the Stealth lead to one going into the fourth quarter.
The Roughnecks continued their run with two more to open the fourth. Kelusky and Josh Sanderson scored in the first five minutes to give Calgary its second lead of the game at 10-9. Luke Wiles evened the score at 10 with his second goal of the game with 4:12 left in regulation, but Kelusky’s sixth goal of the game put the Roughnecks back on top.
The Stealth had the final answer however, as Eric Martin scored a transition goal with 2:10 seconds left to tie the game. Wiles scored the game-winner, his third of the game, less than a minute later, putting the Stealth up 12-11 with just over a minute to play. Roik kept the Roughnecks out of the net in the waning moments, finishing with 41 saves.
“This was an absolutely huge win for this franchise,” added Hall after the game. “With everything at stake, we put together a pretty amazing effort.”
Duch led the Stealth with six points on two goals and four assists. Wiles finished with a hat trick and added an assist. Zywicki recorded two goals and two assists and Morgan also added a pair of goals.
The Stealth defense, who were shorthanded due to injury and suspension, put forth a solid effort in the victory. Martin scored the game-tying goal and added a team-high ten loose balls. The Stealth penalty kill unit, who entered the game best in the league, held the Calgary power play to just one goal on six extra man opportunities.
Kelusky finished with a game-high six goals for the Roughnecks. Sanderson added a goal and eight assists. Goaltender Matt King made 27 saves in the loss.
The Stealth now hold the tiebreaker with the Roughnecks, winning the season series 2-1. The road team was victorious in all three meetings between the teams this season. The Stealth have next weekend off before they take on the Colorado Mammoth in a home-and-home weekend on March 26 and 27. After playing at the Pepsi Center, the Stealth returns to the Comcast Arena on the 27th for “Pink in the Rink” night.