It was a night of ups and downs for the fans at the Comcast Arena at Everett on Saturday night. Ultimately, the evening ended on the highest of notes as 8,600 strong watched the Washington Stealth capture the first National Lacrosse League Championship in franchise history with a 15-11 victory over the Toronto Rock. Lewis Ratcliff earned the game’s MVP honors with five goals in the game.
The Stealth got off to a hot start, thanks to a pair of goals by Ratcliff. Paul Rabil scored with 8:37 remaining in the first quarter to give the Stealth a 3-0 lead. While most of the record-setting crowd in the Comcast Arena felt that the Stealth was well on their way to victory, the Toronto Rock had other ideas. They scored three straight to end the quarter. The Stealth was fortunate to end the first period in a tie, as the Rock offense peppered Stealth goaltender Tyler Richards with 21 first quarter shots. Richards, making many spectacular saves, made 18 of his career-high 50 saves in the opening stanza.
But the Rock offense continued to press, adding three more goals to open the second quarter scoring, completing a 6-0 run. Rhys Duch finally ended the run with a SportsCenter-worthy behind-the-back tally that revived the capacity crowd and cut the Rock lead to two. With 1:37 left in the first half, Ratcliff completed his hat trick to bring the Stealth within one at 6-5. Former Stealth Captain, and current Rock Captain, Colin Doyle had the final say in the half, recording his first goal of the night with less than a minute remaining to give the Rock a 7-5 lead at the halftime break.
Toronto extended their lead to four goals in the third quarter, thanks to a pair of power play goals. The Rock scored on three of their six power plays in the game. With Toronto up 9-5, Rabil scored his second goal of the night, on a fast break that left him one-on-one with Rock goaltender Bob Watson. The Rock regained a four-goal advantage just over a minute later thanks to a goal by All-Rookie Team member Garrett Billings.
Unbeknownst to the Rock and the suddenly silent Comcast Arena crowd, the turning point of the game was just minutes away. With just twelve seconds left in the third quarter, Peter Morgan scored to make the score 10-7. And with just .2 seconds left in the quarter, Eric Martin scored an empty net goal that reignited the crowd, and sparked an 8-0 run that extended well into the fourth quarter.
After back-to-back goals from Duch tied the score at ten, Ratcliff’s fourth goal of the game gave the Stealth their first lead since the first quarter, 11-10. They never looked back, as Cam Sedgwick’s goal from the restraining line with just over six minutes left proved to be the game-winner. Ratcliff added one more to make it 13-10 and a Jeff Zywicki goal with four minutes left extended the lead to four. After a Rock goal, Mike Grimes added the finishing touches with an empty-netter that made it 15-11.
Ratcliff finished with the five goals and added an assist, Duch led all scorers in the game with eleven points on three goals and eight assists. Rabil finished with two goals. Martin, a defenseman of the year nominee, had a game-high eleven loose balls and chipped in on offense with a goal and an assist.
Toronto was led by Kasey Biernes with four goals. Billings added two goals and three assists and Doyle had two and two. Watson made 32 saves in the loss.
The Washington Stealth finishes the 2010 season 14-5. The win gives mrks the first National Lacrosse League Championship in franchise history, dating back to 1999 when the team was located in Albany, N.Y. It is the first championship for every member of the Stealth aside from Ratcliff and Head Coach Chris Hall, who won the 2004 NLL title with the Calgary Roughnecks.