The Stealth could have clinched a berth in the postseason simply by beating Minnesota on Saturday, except their offense was nowhere to be found and the Stealth fell to the Swarm for a second time this season, 12-5.
The loss is cause for concern for the Stealth for many reasons. Instead of keeping distance from Calgary and Edmonton in the NLL's West Division, the Stealth are now just a half game up on both teams. Washington has already lost the season series to Edmonton and now Minnesota has the season series over the Stealth as well.
After winning three games in a row, the Stealth looked poised to run away with the division, now they no longer control their own destiny. Even if they win out, the need at least one loss from the Rush to win the division.
The defense and goalkeeping of Tyler Richards were on par with the high level of play they have exhibited lately. The offense, however, looked like it was playing its first game of the season. The Stealth settled for outside shots and couldn't get figure out Minnesota's Tyler Carlson at all until the fourth period when they scored three goals.
But by that point the damage had been done.
When Washington loses games, it is often mental lapses and frankly stupid plays that are their downfall. Saturday they had one of their biggest mistakes of the season. Trailing 6-2 and on a 5-on-3 power play, the Stealth not only failed to take advantage with any goals, but gave up a shorthanded goal in transition to Jay Card. It's the kind of play that told the story of the whole night. Nothing was going Washington's way.
In the big picture, it's just another road loss, but the Stealth can't afford to play that way with the playoffs approaching fast. A performance like that in the postseason and it doesn't matter where they are playing or how good Tyler Richards is in goal, the Stealth will be headed home.
Now, Washington gets a week off to think about it. When the Stealth return to the floor in two weeks to face Calgary at Comcast Arena, they better hope they have it figured out or the loss to Minnesota might be the start of a second half of the season collapse.
Game awards for Saturday:
Player of the game: Callum Crawford. The Minnesota forward scored four goals, all in the first half to pace the Swarm's offense.
Moment of the game: Ryan Benesch's hat trick. Benesch scored three goals all in the fourth quarter. His final goal put him all by himself as the leading goal-scorer in Minnesota franchise history.
Stealth player of the game: Tyler Richards. Richards saved 48 of 60 shots and many of those 48 saves weren't of the ordinary variety. In a disappointing loss, the continued elite-level performances of Richards was a bright spot.
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