At Comcast Arena on Sunday, it was the Edmonton Rush that couldn't be stopped. The two teams were tied 3-3 after the first quarter, but the Rush dominated the final three quarters to win 18-10.
"I don't think things were going all that well in the first quarter either," Stealth coach Chris Hall said after the game. "We gave up an easy goal on the first goal of the game and then they got up. Personally, I don't think we ever recovered from the first goal of the game."
That first goal of the game belonged to Edmonton forward Mark Matthews, who the Rush selected with the top overall pick in the 2012 NLL entry draft. Matthews has back-to-back hat tricks in his first two games in the NLL and finished with four goals and five assists on Sunday.
"Anytime your first shot of the game goes in the net you think, 'well, this is going to be a good night for me,'" Hall said. "We know he's going to get his points. He is a great lacrosse player, but we've got to get more stops."
The defense struggled to get stops and for the first time this season, the offense struggled to find the net. Forward Rhys Duch had his third hat trick of the season and forward Athan Iannucci and transition player Bob Snider each scored two goals, but outside of that there wasn't much offense to speak of.
"They put great pressure on us," Hall said. "They are very athletic and very quick. It was the best defense we have faced in three games. I thought they played superb defense and I thought we handled it poorly. You have to expend way more energy on offense when a defense is going to put that kind of pressure on you and I don't think we expended that energy."
The Rush also slowed down Cliff Smith, who had been nearly unstoppable his first two games with seven goals and eight assists, holding him to just one assist and without a goal. Perhaps even more impressive, Stealth forward Lewis Ratcliff had no points and just five shots.
"Lewis struggled tonight, there is no doubt about that," Hall said. "Don't forget we have Iannucci, Duch and Smith and other guys who can score. I don't think necessarily that they were totally limiting Lewis' game, I think they put pressure on him as well like they did on others."
The Stealth trailed the Rush 8-5 at halftime and Hall said he felt his team was lucky to be within three goals, but the Rush wasted little time extending that lead in the third period. Edmonton scored the first four goals of the third quarter and extended their lead to 12-5. With Washington goalkeeper Nick Patterson struggling, the Stealth went to Neil Tyacke, who the team signed on Saturday to try to turn things around. Tyacke, who was playing in just his second NLL game, held the Rush in check for the remainder of the third quarter, but Washington needed goals.
They finally got one in the final minute of the third quarter, when Duch scored his second of the game. The goal seemed to awaken the Stealth because Snider won the ensuing face off and ran through the center of the Rush defense to score another goal just eight seconds later. Iannucci added his second goal of the game with 13 seconds left in the quarter and the Stealth had cut the Rush lead to 12-8.
Within striking distance heading into the fourth, Hall said the Stealth needed to score quickly to make it a game. Instead, Edmonton scored the first three goals of the fourth quarter to take a seven-goal advantage again at 15-8. At that point, the Stealth went back to Patterson to finish the game.
After looking like a championship contender in its first two contests, it looked like it was just one of those nights for the Stealth, but Duch said the Stealth can't have that mentality.
"I don't think you can do that for any loss," Duch said. "Obviously, you can't expect to go 16-0 in a season, so you have to chalk it up to that is one of the losses we are allowed. But it's a good learning experience. That's a team you have to expect to see down the road. They are a good team. So I think we would be kind of stupid to just put it behind us and not learn anything, but that being said you have to have a short memory. You can't hold it against yourself. You have to take it as a learning experience and move forward."
For Washington, it was a missed opportunity to send two teams in its division to 0-2 while improving to 3-0 on the season. Instead, the Stealth find themselves just a half game up on Colorado (Washington's next game) and Edmonton with the Rush leading the season series 1-0.
"It's disappointing to miss the opportunity," Duch said. "That being said, we play them next. So if we win it still puts us three wins to their two losses."
Aaron Lommers covers the Washington Stealth for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.
Rush 17, Stealth 10
Edmonton 3 5 4 6 -- 18
Washington 3 2 3 2 -- 10
1st Quarter -- Scoring: EDM -- Matthews Goal (Small, Knight) 0:29; WAS -- Grimes Goal (Garrison) 2:59; EDM -- Small Goal (PP) (Matthews, Knight) 5:09; WAS -- Duch Goal (Patterson, Garrison) 12:18; EDM -- Corbeil Goal (SH) (Rubisch) 13:08; WAS -- Hill Goal (PP) (Duch, Smith) 13:35. Penalties: McElroy, WAS (Holding, Minor, 2 min) 4:05; Ward, EDM (Checking from Behind, Minor, 2 min) 7:08; Thompson, EDM (Holding The Stick, Minor, 2 min) 12:10. Goalie Changes: None.
2nd Quarter -- Scoring: EDM -- Ward Goal (PP) (Greer, Small) 1:25; EDM -- Davis Goal (Conway, Greer) 4:16; EDM -- Mydske Goal 5:34; WAS -- Iannucci Goal (Hill, Buchanan) 7:09; EDM -- Greer Goal (PP) (Matthews, Small) 8:42; EDM -- Cornwall Goal 9:52; WAS -- Bucktooth Goal (PP) (Duch) 14:25. Penalties: O'Dougherty, WAS (Holding, Minor, 2 min) 1:04; Henderson, WAS (Checking from Behind, Minor, 2 min) 8:13; Thompson, EDM (Holding, Minor, 2 min) 12:40. Goalie Changes: None.
3rd Quarter -- Scoring: EDM -- Matthews Goal (Ward, Conway) 0:53; EDM -- Matthews Goal (Ward, Small) 4:26; EDM -- Toll Goal (Bold) 6:45; EDM -- Small Goal (Matthews) 10:16; WAS -- Duch Goal (Snider) 14:15; WAS -- Snider Goal 14:20; WAS -- Iannucci Goal (Hill, Bucktooth) 14:46. Penalties: None. Goalie Changes: None.
4th Quarter -- Scoring: EDM -- Ward Goal (Conway, Matthews) 2:03; EDM -- Knight Goal (Small, Matthews) 6:08; EDM -- Mydske Goal (Cornwall) 6:35; WAS -- Duch Goal (Buchanan, Hill) 9:33; EDM -- Ward Goal (Greer, Davis) 10:20; WAS -- Snider Goal 10:27; EDM -- Thompson Goal (EN) (Bold) 11:54; EDM -- Matthews Goal (PP) (Ward, Knight) 13:01. Penalties: Bucktooth, WAS (Roughing, Minor, 2 min) 10:20; Moleski, WAS (Holding, Minor, 2 min) 12:45. Goalie Changes: None.
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