Rhys Duch capped a six-point night with a power play goal in overtime, leading the Washington Stealth to an 11-10 victory over the Colorado Mammoth to open the 2011 season Saturday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver Colo.
It wasn’t the first time Duch scored an overtime goal at the Pepsi Center. He achieved the same feat during his 2009 Rookie of the Year campaign, clinching a playoff berth for the Stealth in the process. He finished tonight’s game with a hat-trick and added three assists.
“It’s a huge crowd that always heckles me,” said Duch of the 17,000-plus in attendance at the Pepsi Center. “It gets me fired up and it feels good to get the last word.”
Where Duch led the offensive attack, goaltender Matt Roik led the Stealth defense. In the first game of his tenth NLL season, Roik was at his best, making 40 saves in over 69 minutes of action. He was particularly impressive late in the game, helping the Stealth man-down unit stave off a five minute Colorado power play at the end of regulation and into overtime. Roik and the Stealth penalty kill held the Mammoth to just 1-for-5 on the power play.
“Matt was fantastic tonight,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall. “He made plays all night and when we needed him late he was there for us.”
The Stealth jumped out to a 5-1 lead early on, thanks to a pair of early goals from Jeff Zywicki, including a power play tally early in the second quarter. The Stealth power play unit went 3-for-5 in the game.
Colorado pulled within one goal before the half, due in large part to the play of the newly-acquired John Grant, who scored two goals to spark Colorado’s three-goal run to end the half.
The Mammoth continued to roll in the second half, scoring three of the next four; two more for Grant gave him four in the game. He also tallied three assists. Colorado held a 7-6 lead with 2:10 left in the third.
Zywicki completed his hat-trick with 1:38 left in the third, giving the Stealth an 8-7 lead. After the teams traded goals to start the fourth, a pair of goals from the Mammoth in the final five minutes of regulation sent the game to overtime. Duch ended the game nearly ten minutes later.
The Stealth transition game was prominent in the game, leading to four Stealth goals. Third-year transition player Kyle Hartzell scored a career-high two goals, doubling his career total. Defenseman Mike Grimes also added a goal. Paul Rabil led all players with 12 loose balls, while Grimes and Eric Martin each grabbed nine.
“It was a game that could have gone either way and it went ours,” said Hall. “Now we need to rest up and do it all over again tomorrow.”
The Stealth return home to the Comcast Arena tomorrow night for the first time since winning the NLL Championship there last season. They will face another West Division opponent in the Calgary Roughnecks, who are off to a good start themselves, beating the Buffalo Bandits 10-9 earlier tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The teams square off at 5pm on “Champion’s Night” at the Comcast Arena at Everett. Tickets are available now and can be purchased by calling 877-MY-75-TIX or at www.stealthlax.com.