The Washington Stealth picked up a big win against the Colorado Mammoth tonight, one day after losing to the Mammoth in Denver. The Stealth got hat tricks from Rhys Duch and Athan Iannucci to lead the team to an 11-8 win and into fourth place in the National Lacrosse League West Division.
This game got off to a much different start than the 13-11 Mammoth win just a night ago. After the first 15 minutes last night, the teams combined for twelve goals; tonight the teams didn’t reach that mark until late in the third quarter.
The Stealth defense held Colorado to just one goal in the first quarter, due in large part to 13 saves by goaltender Tyler Richards. Richards returned to the lineup after missing the last two games due to injury. He was unofficially credited with 42 saves in the game.
“We really had to wait until after the informal warm up to see if (Tyler Richards) felt comfortable health-wise,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall. “He was fine and cleared to play just a matter of if he was sharp enough. He was healthy and he is our number-one (goaltender) so in he goes and he played great.”
The Stealth got the scoring started with a power play goal by Jeff Zywicki just over two minutes into the game. Defenseman Mike Grimes scored in transition midway through the first to extend the Stealth lead to 2-0. Grimes has scored a goal in each of the last three games.
The Mammoth scored with just under three minutes left in the opening frame cut the Stealth lead to one after 15 minutes of play.
Colorado evened the score early in the second quarter, but Duch scored his first of the night on the Stealth’s ensuing possession to regain the one-goal advantage.
Sean Pollock stepped up in a big way for the Mammoth offense, which was without the NLL’s top scorer, John Grant. Pollock scored a power play goal with 1:33 left in the first half to tie things at three and then followed that 45 seconds later with a go-ahead goal that gave the Mammoth a 4-3 lead at the halftime break.
In the second half, Colorado extended its lead to 5-3 just two minutes into the third quarter. Later in the quarter, the score now 6-4 Mammoth, the Stealth got a pair of highlight reel goals to even the score at six. Brett Bucktooth finished off a fast break with a spectacular diving goal at the 10:48 mark of the third. 41 seconds later, Iannucci buried his first of the night with an equally impressive diving tally of his own.
Iannucci had scored a goal in each of the three games he’s played with the Stealth since being traded from the Edmonton Rush. But tonight was a breakout performance as he finished with three goals and an assist.
“Iannucci had been struggling to find his way in the offense here, but we knew it was only a matter of time,” said Hall. “We know what a tremendous goal scorer he is, he got it going a little tonight and scored three big goals for us. That’s the kind of game he is easily capable of every night.”
Lewis Ratcliff capped off the three-goal with 3:12 left in the quarter, giving the Stealth a 7-6 lead going into the final frame.
Pollock notched his third of the night to open the fourth quarter scoring on the power play. That tied things up at seven with over twelve minutes to play in regulation. The Stealth answered in a big way however, as Duch, Iannucci and Ratcliff each scored goals, Iannucci and Ratcliff on the power play, in the next six minutes to give the Stealth a 10-7 lead from which the team would not look back.
The Mammoth scored once more to cut the lead to two goals, but Iannucci put on the finishing touches with another power play goal with less than a minute remaining.
At the final whistle, the Stealth had a 11-8 victory, the team’s first home win of the 2012 season.
“It’s probably more relief than anything else,” said Hall. “It’s a lot more fun (winning) in your own building; the fans are loyal and have been cheering for us hard, it was frustrating not being able to get a win for them.”
Duch led all scorers with three goals and three assists on the night. He made his return to the lineup last night after missing two games with an injury. He finished the weekend with four goals and four assists.
Ratcliff added a pair of goals and Bucktooth and Zywicki each tallied a goal and two assists.
The Mammoth was led by Pollock’s hat trick and four assists by rookie Adam Jones in the loss.
The Stealth has a week off before another back-to-back weekend on March 24 and 25. The Stealth will be in Edmonton on the March 24 before returning home to take on the Minnesota Swarm March 25 at the Comcast Arena. Visit www.stealthlax.com for full details.