Not that anyone should have expected the Washington Stealth to go undefeated this season, the National Lacrosse League is to competitive to pull off such a feat, but those who follow the Stealth also shouldn't have expected the team to struggle as much as it did on Sunday in an 18-10 loss to Edmonton.
First off, the Rush are good. Even if the Stealth played well they might still have lost the game, but there are some concerns after a 2-0 start.
The offense had been playing at an extremely high level through two games. Sunday, the offense looked non-existent. Stealth head coach Chris Hall said that the Rush applied a lot of pressure to the Stealth and he thought his team handled it poorly. The biggest surprise for me was Lewis Ratcliff being held off the scoresheet. In two years of covering the Stealth I don't know that I have ever seen that happen.
Ratcliff is one of the best scorers in the NLL, but when he doesn't score and get off just five shots, the Stealth aren't going to win many games.
Another surprise for me was the Stealth's defense. Through two games they had been one of the most aggressive units in the league. Edmonton, however, showed little struggle in fighting through the D for 18 goals. Sure, the Stealth were without starting goalkeeper Tyler Richards for a second straight game, but they have a very capable backup in Nick Patterson.
But things didn't go well for the defense or Patterson on Sunday.
I don't think the Stealth came into the game overconfident, but I do think that the Rush are the best team that they have played all season. After starting 2-0 and then seeing a team as good as Edmonton, I do think it is possible that the Stealth were caught a bit off guard and never recovered.
The offensive and defensive struggles we my surprises.
My bright spot for the Stealth was Bob Snider. Snider continues to dominant the faceoff circle and when things were going really poorly on Sunday he twice took matters into his own hands after winning the faceoff and drove through the Edmonton defense for a goal. It was great to see Snider be that aggressive and I think the Stealth would be well served if he continues to look for the quick goal.
The overall player of the game was Edmonton rookie Mark Matthews. Matthews scored four goals and added five assists. Through his first two NLL games Matthews has seven goals and seven assists and appears well on his way to Rookie of the Year.
The Stealth's player of the game was Rhys Duch. Duch recorded his third hat trick of the season and added two assists on Sunday. After three games he is the Stealth's most consistent offensive option.
So, the Stealth finally taste defeat in 2013. The good news for them. They don't have to wait long for revenge on the Rush. The two teams face each other again Friday night in Edmonton.
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