The Stealth's Matt Beers (right) stands strong against the Wings, Saturday night in Philadelphia (Photo: Todd Bauders)
Lewis Ratcliff tallied his 401st career goal in the Stealth's 16-10 win over the Wings (Photo: Todd Bauders)
PHILADELPHIA – Washington’s special teams play held a coming-out party, scoring five short-handed goals to silence a potent Wings offense with a 16-10 road win, Saturday night at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.
The victory - the Stealth’s third straight giving them their longest unbeaten run of the season, was Washington’s first-ever in Philadelphia and halted a three-win run by the Wings.
Now 7-4 with just five games remaining and holding down first in the NLL West, Washington needs just an eighth win, combined with a Colorado loss and a favorable tie-breaker scenario, to secure its third playoff berth in four years.
“It’s always difficult to win on the road and especially in the East Division,” said Stealth Head Coach Chris Hall.
“Road wins are hard to come by in this league. We were able to pounce on them early and got a huge lead,” he said. “We took advantage of the situations that presented themselves to us.”
And the situations were plentiful.
Entering the game with just a single short-handed goal on the season, the Stealth exploded for five scores on man-down situations to clip the Wings power play threat and quiet the Wells Fargo Center.
With season-high performances, NLL leading scorer Rhys Duch delivered five goals and three assists for eight points, while Lewis Ratcliff hit a career milestone with four goals for his 401st in 11 years of NLL play. Along with three assists, Ratcliff had seven key points on the night.
After playing to a 2-2 tie at the five-minute mark of the opening quarter, Duch delivered his first on the night to ignite a four-goal Stealth run through the initial minute-and-a-half of the second.
The run, capped by Ratcliff’s second of the contest making it 5-2, ultimately lifted the Stealth to its third 16-goal game of the 2013 season.
Philadelphia briefly interrupted Washington’s goal-party with a Pat Heim score, his only tally of the night just 32 seconds later to bring the Wings within two.
But that was as close as the Wings would fly, as Justin Salt’s score at 10:14 again would send the Stealth streaking – this time on a five-goal tear, that included Ratcliff’s third on the night and 400th career goal to beat Philadelphia goaltender Brandon Miller with 2:58 to go. to make it 9-3.
Dean Hill’s goal, his only score of the night, with just two second remaining would close out the half at 10-3. Hill finished with three points.
“I forgot that it was 400 until they started yelling for the ball on the bench,” Ratcliff said. “It’s a pretty cool feeling to score that many in this league.”
Ratcliff joined eight Stealth players in the scoring including Athan Iannucci, who made his first trip back to Philadelphia since coming over to the Stealth, with a goal and two assists.
Captain Kyle Sorensen and Jeff Moleski both finished with a goal and an assist and Justin Salt had two goals.
“When you have guys that are used to having the ball and taking the shot, its tough to get everyone on the same page,” Ratcliff said. “Duch, Nooch (Iannucci) and myself are all starting to mesh and play better as a unit.”
Duch’s four goals gave the Victoria, British Columbia native eight hat tricks on the season.
In the third, Philadelphia opened, scoring two of the first three to narrow the gap to 11-5, before Duch delivered his third and Salt netted his second.
In the fourth, following Ratcliff’s goal with just over seven minutes remaining to put Washington ahead at 14-8, the Stealth were faced with their first real test of the night as Mitch McMichael was whistled for a illegal cross check.
Forced to kill a five-minute major and the threat of a Wings comeback, possession – and Bob Snider, became the insurance necessary to lock in the win.
“He was huge,” said Hall of Snider who finished the night taking 25 of 29 faceoffs from the Wings and eliminating the chance of a second come-from-behind win in as many games for Philadelphia.
“Especially late in the game. The odds were that you’re getting the ball back and can kill 30 (seconds) off the penalty,” he said. “Huge.”
In the end, Washington killed the penalty and held Philadelphia to just two more scores.
Tyler Richards again delivered critical saves on the road, stopping 42 of 52 Philadelphia shots.
For Philadelphia, who struggled without captain Brodie Merrill in the lineup, Paul Rabil managed a goal and two assists, while Drew Westervelt had a goal and three assists.
The Stealth remains on the road next week for a Saturday, March 16 matchup with Minnesota in the rubber-match of the three-game series with the Swarm. Game time is 4 p.m. PT from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Following a week off, the Stealth return home to Comcast Arena for a Saturday, March 30 contest with rival Calgary. Game time is 6:45 p.m. PT.
Scoring 1 2 3 4 F
Washington 4 6 3 3 -- 16
Philadelphia 2 1 3 4 -- 10
Around the NLL
Friday, March 8
Saturday, March 9
-- www.StealthLAX.com --