By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
The mood before the game was jovial. It was great to see Washington Stealth head coach Chris Hall back on the sidelines after month of treatment for throat cancer doing what he does better than anything — coach lacrosse.
But after the game, the mood was somber and the players and coaches seemed full of shock.
The Stealth dropped another game on Friday night, their sixth of the season and it wasn’t even close, falling 15-7 to the MInnesota Swarm. The undoing for the Stealth was a second quarter in which they were outscored 7-0.
For the second time this season, the Stealth were thoroughly embarrassed on their home floor. They took stupid penalties, their offense struggled and they couldn’t take advantage of power play situations.
It’s getting hard to find the right questions to ask after the game’s. I, like many others who follow lacrosse, picked the Stealth to do quite well this season. In fact, I had them winning the National Lacrosse League championship this season, which now, at best, seems like wishful thinking. After many of the games there is one thing to pinpoint that the Stealth didn’t do well enough to win a close game. But this game, like the Edmonton game earlier in the season exposed the Stealth’s many weaknesses.
Yes, Rhys Duch, Tyler Richards, Kyle Sorensen and Chris McElroy all missed the game for the Stealth due to injury, something Hall acknowledge after the loss.
But the following words he said expressed what has gone on this season best.
“Other players have to step up,” Hall said.
So far, that hasn’t happened. There is still a ton of talent on the Stealth and there is the possibility of the offense coming together nicely when everyone is healthy. But each week the players and the coaches and even myself keep saying they will turn it around. After the game on Friday, I realized that there is reason to believe that they won’t.
It’s easy to point out all the little things and say “if we do this better, we will be okay.” Just one problem, the Stealth haven’t done those things any better. The season isn’t young anymore. It’s a 16 game season and the Stealth are seven games in, nearly halfway through the schedule. If the playoffs started now, they would be the only team in the league that does not get in.
For a team that has had so much success the past two seasons, it is discouraging to say the least. The physical and emotional pain that the losing is causing is evident on the players faces.
We have reached the all-star break. Now that Hall is back and the sense of urgency has been ramped up. We will see what this team is made of in the upcoming games. We will see if they can get back in the race or if this season is all for not.
One thing is for certain, the window of opportunity to turn this thing around is closing fast.
Player(s) of the game: The MInnesota offense, Five Swarm players scored at least two goals, led by Ryan Benesch, who scored twice and dished six assists. Granted they did it against backup goalkeeping, but the Stealth have to do a better job defensively than that.
Stealth player of the game: Dean Hill, forward, Hill scored three goals to lead the Stealth. The encouraging thing about Hill’s game was that he was getting inside for his goals. He didn’t settle for shots from the outside he got physical inside and it paid off. Hopefully the other Stealth players can follow suit.
Stealth unsung hero of the game:, Matt Beers, defenseman, It was hard to find one in this game, but I will give it to Beers based on one play. He made the heads up play that COULD have gotten the Stealth back into the game. In a physical confrontation with Minnesota’s Andrew Suitor, Beers declined to retaliate on a headbutt that sent Suitor to the penalty box for five minutes. The Stealth trailed at the time 11-6 and had the momentum. They had an opportunity to cut that lead to 11-9 on that power play, but failed to do so. Even though it didn’t work out from for the Stealth, it was a heads up play by Beers to give his team a chance.