By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
EVERETT — The most important game for the Washington Stealth in the 2012 National Lacrosse League season won’t involve them.
The Stealth’s 16-13 loss to the defending NLL champion Toronto Rock on Friday night means the Stealth need a Rochester victory over Buffalo today or they will be eliminated from playoff contention.
“Obviously we just became big Rochester fans,” Stealth head coach Chris Hall said. “We hope like heck that they win and we get an opportunity to salvage our season. If not, we only have ourselves to blame because we did not play well enough to win. Our record is 4-11. You know what? They say you are what your record is.”
If the Knighthawks beat the Bandits today, the winner of next Saturday’s game between the Stealth and Bandits would be the final team in the NLL playoffs.
Hall said Friday’s game came down to many of the same mistakes the Stealth have made throughout the season. The Stealth took bad penalties as they have for much of the season. They took an offensive nap in the second quarter, getting shut out 3-0. The offense came alive in the fourth quarter scoring six goals, but the defense wasn’t up to the challenge, allowing seven.
“I think again, like it has been all year, our fundamental lacrosse was poor,” Hall said. “We didn’t play sound fundamental lacrosse. Tonight we made some glaring errors on defense and took some unnecessary penalties again. When we kept trying to get ourselves back into it, we would make another fundamental error.”
The Stealth trailed 7-4 at halftime, but twice got to within a goal in the second half. Every time the Stealth got close, though, the Rock responded and extended their lead.
“When we are trying to make a comeback, they can’t score every other shift,” Stealth forward Rhys Duch said.
Duch said the second-quarter struggles of the offense and the fourth-quarter struggles of the defense were the difference.
“Our thing was, if we play a full 60 minutes, I think our heart and our desperation will take over and we will win the game,” Duch said. “You know what? Our offense went to sleep in the second quarter and our defense went to sleep in the last quarter and 45 minutes wasn’t 60 and that’s what I think the difference was.”
Duch did his part offensively, leading the Stealth with four goals and six assists, matching his best output of the season. Athan Iannucci chipped in three goals and Lewis Ratcliff and Martin Cummings each added two.
Josh Sanderson and Kasey Beirnes each scored four goals for the Rock.
Like Hall, Duch said he is a new fan of the Knighthawks.
“I have never been a Knighthawks fan, but I might buy a jersey,” he said. “The good thing is that they are still fighting for a playoff position. They have a spot, but they want to move up in the rankings as high as they can. So they are going to come in with all their guns in the lineup.”
Many could argue that the Stealth might not deserve the chance, but Duch said the Stealth will be ready to play next week if they get the opportunity to play for a playoff berth.
“I think if we get opportunity, the emotion in the locker room right now, its optimistic, its positive to see the heartbreak in the locker room,” Duch said. “There is nobody in there, like ‘Ah, we tried are best, move on.’ Everybody is so heartbroken right now that the desperate team that you saw in that fourth quarter will be there if we actually have an opportunity to make that last playoff spot.”
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.
Rock 16, Stealth 13
First quarter—Scoring: WAS—Sedgwick Goal (Bucktooth, Duch) 0:22. TOR—Beirnes Goal (Manning, Codd) 1:52. TOR—Manning Goal (Sanderson, Woods) 3:38. TOR—Beirnes Goal (Billings, Sanderson) 9:15. WAS—Ratcliff Goal (PP) (Duch, Zywicki) 9:53. WAS—Iannucci Goal (PP) (Duch) 11:07. WAS—Duch Goal (Zywicki, Cummings) 12:44. TOR—Sanderson Goal (Beirnes, Doyle) 13:57.
Second quarter—Scoring: TOR—Beirnes Goal (Leblanc, Doyle) 1:56. TOR—Sanderson Goal (PP) (Billings, Doyle) 6:10. TOR — Thenhaus Goal (SH) (Leblanc) 9:18.
Third quarter—-Scoring: WAS—Ratcliff Goal (Duch, Iannucci) 2:55. TOR—Beirnes Goal (PP) (Billings, Leblanc) 6:54. WAS — Duch Goal (SH) (Bucktooth) 8:45. WAS—Iannucci Goal (PP) (Ratcliff, Duch) 9:57. TOR—Doyle Goal (Billings, Leblanc) 12:39.
Fourth quarter—Scoring: WAS—Duch Goal (Bucktooth) 0:34. TOR—Billings Goal (Thenhaus, Hobbins) 1:07. WAS—Cummings Goal (Zywicki, Bucktooth) 2:42. TOR—Leblanc Goal 3:35. TOR—Sanderson Goal 5:07. TOR—Leblanc Goal (Bryan, Johnston) 7:12. WAS—Iannucci Goal (Bucktooth, Ratcliff) 7:30. WAS—Zywicki Goal (Duch, Richards) 9:01. TOR—Doyle Goal 10:50. TOR — Hobbins Goal (Codd) 12:03. WAS—Duch Goal (Snider) 12:15. WAS—Cummings Goal 12:27. TOR—Sanderson Goal (Chapman) 14:45.