“Sloppy games happen, but you gotta play your way through it.”
Those were the sentiments of Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall after the Stealth recorded a 12-9 win over the Minnesota Swarm at the Comcast Arena Friday Night. Jeff Zywicki earned the game’s MVP honors with four goals and four assists as the Stealth improves their league-best record to 6-0.
The Stealth, who are at the top of the West Division, found themselves in a back-and-forth battle with the Swarm, who are last in the division at 1-4.
The Stealth got off to a quick start with goals by Zywicki and Luke Wiles to start the game. But Minnesota answered with two of their own to tie the score at two with 3:45 to play in the opening stanza. The difference between the teams in the first quarter was a Cam Sedgwick power play tally with six seconds on the clock.
The second quarter was even at three goals apiece and the teams broke at halftime with the Stealth holding a narrow 6-5 advantage. Goaltender Matt Roik made 20 of his 39 saves in the first half to keep the Stealth ahead.
“Roik was fantastic,” said Hall. “He made some big saves at key points in the game.”
It was a crazy third quarter for the Stealth. Both Eric Martin and Paul Rabil received game misconduct penalties in the quarter, Rabil’s leaving the Stealth down a man for seven minutes. The Stealth penalty kill unit, which was tops in the league coming into the game, gave up just one goal during the seven-minute stretch. It was the first goal allowed by the man-down team in over 100 minutes of play stretching over three games. That power play goal was the difference in the quarter however, and the teams went into the fourth quarter tied at eight.
“The man-down was superb yet again,” added Hall. “Allowing just one goal during a seven-minute power play was a turning point.”
That penalty kill fueled a fourth quarter start that changed the tide for the Stealth. Three straight goals early in fourth gave the Stealth all the offense they would need. Duch scored his second just 2:37 in the fourth to make it 9-8. Less than thirty seconds later, Mike Grimes scored on a fast break that would eventually be the game-winner. Duch completed his hat trick to make it 11-8 with 11:50 left on the clock. Minnesota scored next to cut the lead to two, but a Peter Morgan goal with 9:40 left was the final tally of the game and gave the Stealth the 12-9 victory.
Zywicki’s eight points were a game-high. Duch finished with seven points on three goals and four assists. Lewis Ratcliff, who led the league in goals with 14 coming into the game, did not score but was credited with a game-high six assists. Morgan scored twice and added three assists and Sedgwick finished with one and four.
Jamison Koesterer, who led the league in face-offs coming into the game, won 20 of 25 draws. The Stealth won the loose ball battle 87-80, led by rookie Matt Beers with a game-high 12.
The Swarm were led offensively by Callum Crawford with three goals and two assists. Goaltender Nick Patterson made 29 saves in the loss.
“It was a great character win for us,” said Hall. “It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to win.”
The Stealth will see the Swarm again next week, when they travel to St. Paul, Minn., for their final meeting of the season. The game can be seen on the NLL Network at NLL.com.