The Washington Stealth entered tonight’s regular season finale with a chance to clinch second place in the West and a home playoff game. Instead they allowed a season-high 18 goals to the Rochester Knighthawks (9-6) as the Stealth falls to 8-8 on the year with an 18-10 loss. The Stealth can still host a first round playoff game if the Minnesota Swarm loses to the Colorado Mammoth next weekend.
The Stealth opened the scoring early in the first quarter with a goal by Rhys Duch. It was the only lead the Stealth would have in the game however, as the Knighthawks scored four straight to close out the opening frame. Two of the goals were scored on the power play, the only two extra man goals of the night for Rochester in five chances.
In the second quarter, the Stealth got back into the game, capitalizing with three power play goals after three Rochester five-minute penalties. The Stealth went 5-for-8 on the power play in the game. The home team ended the half with three unanswered goals to make the score 6-5 at the halftime break.
The teams continued to battle in the third, trading goals in the first ten minutes of the quarter. Stealth forward Lewis Ratcliff knotted the score at eight with 4:08 remaining in the third stanza, but it was the last time the Stealth would even the score. The Knighthawks ended the quarter with four straight goals in three minutes, 21 seconds to hold a 12-8 advantage going into the final fifteen minutes.
The Knighthawks continued to exploit the Stealth defense in the fourth quarter, rattling off four more goals to end the Stealth’s hopes of a comeback. With the score 16-8, Luke Wiles ended Rochester’s eight-goal run with his second goal of the night with 8:31 left in the game.
From there, the Knighthawks tallied two more goals, including an empty netter, while the Stealth scored once to round out the scoring and the Knighthawks left the Comcast Arena with a convincing 18-10 victory. The 18 goals against is the most allowed by the Stealth since the first round of the 2008 playoffs against the Portland Lumberjax.
“We were able to get back into the game at the end of the first half, but failed to execute down the stretch,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall after the game. “It was incredibly disappointing considering what was at stake for us in this one.”
Duch led the Stealth with six points on two goals and four assists. He finishes the regular season with a career-high 90 points (42g, 48a), good for second in the NLL. The man he trails in the scoring race is his teammate Ratcliff, whose two goals and two assists tonight gives him 92 points (41g, 51a) on the year.
Wiles and Cam Sedgwick finished with two goals and three assists apiece for the Stealth. Face-off man Bob Snider was stellar for the Stealth, winning 29 of the 31 draws he took in the game. He also collected a game-high 11 loose balls. Goaltenders Matt Roik and Tyler Richards combined for 32 saves in the loss.
The Knighthawks were led by Shawn Evans with three goals and three assists. Jordan Hall also tallied a hat trick and added an assist. Shawn Williams tallied a goal and five assists. Matt Vinc made 38 saves for his eighth win of the season.
The Stealth now waits to find out its postseason fate, as the result of next weekend’s game between the Minnesota Swarm, which sits just a half-game behind the Stealth in the West Division standings, and the Colorado Mammoth. A Swarm victory sends the Stealth to Minnesota for the first round of the playoffs in two weeks. Stay tuned to www.stealthlax.com for updates on the Stealth’s position in the 2011 NLL playoffs.