By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
My oh my how things have changed.
Ten games into the 2012 season the Washington Stealth were reeling, battling injuries, inconsistent play and a coach who was fighting his way back from cancer. The Stealth were just looking to creep into the playoffs. It didn’t happen. They were the only team in the National Lacrosse League to miss the postseason.
This season everything is different. The Stealth are 6-4 and after Sunday’s 11-8 victory over Minnesota they stand alone in first place in the NLL’s West Division.
The game was exactly what the Stealth needed. Even with much greater success than they had a year ago, inconsistent play has still haunted the team.
Sunday they might have figured it all out. The offense was good enough, but the defense and goalkeeping was phenomenal yet again. The latter two things are what is going to decide if this team can win a championship this season.
In my opinion, Tyler Richards is the best indoor lacrosse goalkeeper in the world right now. He saved 43 of the 51 shots on Sunday, continuing his string of great games.
In the Stealth’s sixth victory of the season forward Rhys Duch passed a milestone. Duch recorded his 400th point in the league. Since coming into the league in 2009 he has been one of the premier offensive players in the league and Sunday he was rewarded with that mark for his efforts.
The Stealth have put together the two most complete games they have played in over a season in back-to-back weeks. If Richards and the young defense keep up their high-level of play the Stealth could host a playoff game for the first time since they won the championship in 2010.
Sunday’s game awards:
Player of the game: Athan Iannucci — Iannucci scored four goals for the second straight game, including a natural hat trick to start the second quarter. Iannucci has emerged as team’s second scoring threat to Duch over the past two weeks. If he continues to find the net, the Stealth can separate themselves from the rest of the West down the stretch.
Unsung hero: Brett Bucktooth — Bucktooth scored three goals, including the Stealth’s only two goals of the fourth period. With all the offensive firepower the Stealth have Bucktooth’s name is often mentioned, but the veteran seems to always step up when his team needs him.
Defensive MVP: Tyler Richards — Richards has been a rock in goal the past four games. There are many things that have to go right for the Stealth to win the championship, but it starts with Richards and right now there is no one better.