By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Miami Heat may have the original, but Sunday night the Washington Stealth introduced their own version of the big three.
Led by Athan Iannucci, Rhys Duch and Lewis Ratcliff, the Stealth defeated the National Lacrosse League’s best team, the Colorado Mammoth, 11-8 at Comcast Arena. It was the Stealth’s first home win of the 2012 season and they did it in front of 3,919 fans.
“I don’t know who was more relieved, us or the fans,” Duch said. “They invest in us a lot and we appreciate it. The ones that don’t give up on us, that came through, we noticed them. They are real loud, not one of the biggest crowds, but one of the best I think.”
Duch, who returned to the team after missing time with an injury in Saturday’s 13-11 loss to the Mammoth (8-2) in Denver, scored three goals and Ratcliff added two.
But perhaps even more important was the performance of Iannucci, who had his first hat trick as a member of the Stealth (3-7).
“It’s a big sign, especially Iannucci because he had been struggling and trying to find his way and trying to find some chemistry within the offense here,” Stealth head coach Chris Hall said. “We knew it was simply a matter of time because I know what a tremendous goal-scorer he is. It started to get a little bit frustrating about the wait time, but certainly he got it unglued tonight.”
It was the first time since the Stealth acquired Iannucci from the Edmonton Rush for Paul Rabil that the three players have scored multiple goals in the same game.
“First and foremost, it just felt great to get a win,” Iannucci said. “If I can get a couple of goals that’s great. The whole fourth quarter our M.O. was kind of just get it around and whoever gets it gets it and it happened to be me tonight, so I’m just happy to do it if I can.”
The Stealth have struggled with injuries all season, but Hall has salivated at the idea of having a healthy Duch and Jeff Zywicki, who missed six weeks earlier in the season, to combine with Iannucci and Ratcliff. He got it for the first time in Colorado on Saturday with mixed results. Sunday night, though, it appeared the chemistry started to click.
“Chemistry is such an intangible thing,” Iannucci said. “How do you really have it? What makes it? With players as skilled as all of our players are really, every one of us has the ability to go out and have a six-goal night. We have all done it before. Just creating that chemistry is what we are all about right now, it’s what we are trying to do.”
The Stealth’s big three and Zywicki combined to score nine of the Stealth’s 11 goals.
Another welcome sign for the Stealth was the return of Tyler Richards, who has missed the last three games with an injury. Richards didn’t look like he had missed time, saving 42 of the 50 shots he faced.
“You miss the boys after a week or two, you know, and it was three weeks without seeing them,” Richards said. “I couldn’t have been happier to get back out there.”
Colorado’s Sean Pollock scored in the early minutes of the fourth quarter to tie the score at 7-7. But Richards came up big down the stretch, allowing only one more goal the rest of the game. Richards was helped by the mental mistakes of the Mammoth’s Gavin Prout, who took a penalty with 6:45 remaining in the game for cross-checking and another with 2:32 remaining for roughing. Both penalties resulted in Stealth goals.
“Gavin had a little bit of a meltdown there and took — and got sort of baited I think — into taking two bad penalties and he took one last night too,” Hall said. “Unusual for Gavin, he’s an accomplished, experienced player. We weren’t about to turn them down. We were happy to get the power-play especially late in the game.”
Pollock led Colorado offensively with three of the Mammoth’s eight goals.
The Stealth have a bye next week before traveling to Edmonton for a March 24 game.
Aaron Lommers covers the Washington Stealth for The Herald. Read his live blogs at www.heraldnet.com/blog34, follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stealth 11, Mammoth 8
First quarter—W: Zywicki 2:09. W: Grimes (Moleski) 6:53. C: Lincoln (Coates, Jones) 12:19.
secondd quarter—C: Holding (Sullivan, Levis) 3:26. W: Duch (Bloom) 3:37. C: Pollock (Jones) 13:27. C: Pollock (Hopcroft, Prout).
Third quarterC: Prossner 2:01. W: Duch (Zywicki, Bucktooth) 3:30. C: MacLeod (Jones) 4:01. W: Bucktooth (Beers, Moleski) 4:12. W: Iannucci (Duch, Bloom) 4:53. W: Ratcliff (Hill, Bucktooth) 11:48.
Fourth quarterC: Pollock (Hopcroft, Jones) 2:44. W: Duch (McElroy, Richards) 3:24. W: Iannucci (Duch, Hill) 7:13. W: Ratcliff (Zywicki, Iannucci) 8:48. C: Hawksbee (Reid) 9:23. W: Iannucci (Duch) 14:01.