EVERETT — For Washington Stealth goalkeeper Tyler Richards, it must have felt like a reoccurring nightmare.
Five weeks ago the Stealth had a five-goal lead in the fourth quarter against the Calgary Roughnecks when Richards was called for a five-minute major penalty for high-sticking. With Richards in the box the Roughnecks took advantage, scoring six of the next seven goals to tie the score at 13. The Stealth stayed poised and came back with three straight goals to put the game away, but Richards’ penalty nearly had dire consequences.
Saturday night, Richards was whistled for the same infraction against the same team in the same quarter of the game. This time the penalty cost his team the game.
The Roughnecks scored five of the game’s final six goals to come from behind and beat the Stealth 13-11.
With Colorado and Minnesota winning this weekend and the Stealth’s loss, Washington failed to clinch a playoff berth for the second consecutive game. They fell a game behind Calgary and Edmonton for first place in the NLL’s West Division and missed a chance to secure the season series with Calgary.
Needless to say, the stakes were high.
The penalty against Richards came with 7:16 to play in the final quarter. Backup goalkeeper Matt Roik came in to relieve Richards while he was in the penalty box. The Roughnecks could score as many as three goals with their 5-on-4 advantage before the Stealth could go back to full strength and Richards had to serve the full five minutes regardless of how many goals Calgary scored.
It took the Roughnecks just two minutes and 20 seconds of game time to score three goals and gave them another 21⁄2 minutes to try and score against Roik. With precious few seconds left on Richards’ penalty, Greg Hartnett stole the ball from Stealth forward Athan Iannucci and sprinted down the floor beating Roik to give the Roughnecks a 12-10 lead.
Thirty-seconds later Richards returned, but the damage had been done.
In the Stealth’s victory over the Roughnecks earlier in the season, Richards didn’t complain when being hit with the major penalty.
Saturday was a different story.
Richards and his teammates seemed to be in disbelief at the call creating a conference between the officials. But ultimately, Richards still had to serve the penalty.
“It all kind of happened pretty quick, but from what I recall, (Dane) Dobbie came through and took a shot to my right side and followed his shot through,” Richards said. “So I was just protecting myself and I think I got him in the chest and he kind of threw his head back and made it look pretty good.”
Richards may not have agreed with the call, but after the game he wished he would have handled it differently.
“It’s something where I need to let him run into me and let him take the penalty,” Richards said. “I need to go with that approach instead of the one I went with.
“The one the last time we played them, I definitely deserved it. It was something that I blatantly did. I lost my cool and I admit to that one. This one, I was just trying to make a play to not get injured. The ref saw one thing and I don’t agree with what they called, but that’s the call. That’s something we have to live with and it’s not going to change now, so we have to move on.”
Stealth head coach Chris Hall said he would reserve comment until reviewing the play.
“I didn’t see it,” Hall said. “I’ve got to look at the tape. To be honest I didn’t see it. Obviously our players were pretty upset about it. You have to protect the goalies in this league and we have talked about that a long time so I really don’t have a comment until I look at the tape, but obviously it was a game-changing play. There is no doubt about that.”
Of course the Calgary locker room didn’t have any problem with the call.
“It was pretty hard to see,” Roughnecks assistant coach Bob McMahon said. “I know (Dobbie) was just going hard to the crease and it was pretty hard to tell from where we were on the bench. But, you know, both referees talked about it and they agreed that it was a five (minute penalty). So, we will take it.”
Though the Stealth (7-6) controlled 55 minutes of the game, it was the other five minutes where Calgary had them outmanned that made the difference. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise — the Roughnecks have the top power-play unit in the league.
“That’s why you really practice your power play and we’ve been pretty successful all year long around 65 percent,” McMahon said. “They stepped up. They showed why they are the best power play in the league.”
Curtis Dickson led the Roughnecks with four goals and NLL points leader Shawn Evans chipped in one goal and six assists.
Washington was led by Lewis Ratcliff, who scored two goals and dished three assists. Brett Bucktooth chipped in two goals and two assists.
After scoring just five goals last weekend’s loss to Minnesota, the Stealth scored 11 goals and did it with balance. Their first seven goals were scored by seven different players.
“I’m still not real happy with the offense,” Hall said. “We talked about it at halftime, we thought we should have been up three or four goals at least and we weren’t. So I think we still have work to do with the offense.”
Aaron Lommers covers the Washington Stealth for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roughnecks 13, Stealth 11
Calgary 3 1 2 7 — 13
Washington 3 2 2 4 — 11
1st Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Hill Goal (EA) (Smith, Bucktooth) 1:41; CGY — Dickson Goal (Ranger, Evans) 4:56; WAS — Bucktooth Goal (Ratcliff, Duch) 8:35; CGY — Snider Goal 9:35; CGY — Dickson Goal (Resetarits) 10:36; WAS — Jones Goal 14:36.
2nd Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Sorensen Goal (Richards) 0:35; WAS — Duch Goal (Jones, Smith) 13:30; CGY — Evans Goal (Dobbie, Shattler) 14:27.
3rd Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Ratcliff Goal (Bucktooth, Duch) 4:55; CGY — Shattler Goal (Snider, Evans) 5:08; WAS — Garrison Goal (Grimes) 9:00; CGY — Ranger Goal (Harnett) 14:16.
4th Quarter — Scoring: CGY — Dickson Goal (PP) (Evans) 2:42; CGY — Dobbie Goal (Snider, Ranger) 2:59; WAS — Bucktooth Goal (PP) (Ratcliff) 4:49; WAS — Moleski Goal (Hodgson) 5:53; WAS — Ratcliff Goal (Duch) 6:51; CGY — Dickson Goal (PP) (Evans, Dobbie) 8:12; CGY — Dobbie Goal (PP) (Evans, MacRae) 9:34; CGY — Dobbie Goal (PP) (Ranger) 10:04; CGY — Harnett Goal 12:21; WAS — Hill Goal (PP) (Ratcliff, Duch) 13:50; CGY — Shattler Goal (EN) (Evans) 14:58.