By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
EVERETT — The good news for coach Chris Hall was he had no trouble pinpointing why the Washington Stealth lost 18-10 to Edmonton last Sunday.
The bad news was he had to analyze an eight-goal loss.
Sunday’s loss was the Stealth’s first of the season and was a missed opportunity to send two teams in their division to 0-2, while improving to 3-0 themselves.
Reviewing the game film, Hall saw several things that must improve this weekend for the Stealth to have success in back-to-back road games, beginning with tonight’s chance for redemption against Edmonton, Saturday, the Stealth are in Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Swarm.
“We need to get some better goaltending for starters,” Hall said. “After that we need to get back and focus on the things that made us successful the first two games and stick with our game plan and stick with our systems. I think we really got away from that throughout (last Sunday’s) game. In many cases we did the exact opposite of what we were supposed to be doing.
Backup goalkeeper Nick Patterson has gotten the start the past two weeks for Tyler Richards, who has been out with a lower-body injury.
Patterson played well in a 17-13 victory over Colorado two weeks ago, but struggled at times against Edmonton and was pulled for a stretch in the third quarter for Neil Tyacke, who was signed by Washington the day before the game and saw time in just his second NLL game.
Hall said if Richards is healthy he will start tonight against the Rush.
“If he looks fine in practice and he’s feeling healthy and ready to go and if that’s the case, he’s going in,” Hall said. “It’s a simple as that. He’s our number one goalie and we need to have him.”
Getting Richards back should help, but the Stealth have other concerns, too. They need to slow down a Rush offense led by rookie Mark Matthews, who scored four goals and had five assists last Sunday.
“He is explosive,” Hall said. “He’s an incredible shooter. He’s a great feeder. He’s big and he’s strong. He’s an obvious marquee player. … You have to try and limit (that kind of player’s) opportunities to get points and I think we didn’t do a very good job of it.”
Washington also needs to improve its power play situation. The Stealth are last in the National Lacrosse League in capitalizing on the power play and killing the opponents’ power play.
The Stealth’s offense needs to return to the form it showed in the season’s first two games. Washington averaged 15 goals those two games, then scored just 10 this past Sunday. Cliff Smith and Lewis Ratcliff, the Stealth’s top-two left-handed forwards combined for no goals and shot 0-for-8 for the game.
“I think we were smothered by a very quick and aggressive defense and we kept trying to defeat it one-on-one,” Hall said. “You are never going to defeat a defense like that one-on-one. We got very much away from the team game and very much into individualism.”
Tonight’s game against Edmonton is important. If Edmonton wins it overtakes the Stealth in the West Division standings and has a two-game advantage in head-to-head competition. If the Stealth win, they stay in first place and take a 11/2 game lead over the Rush.
Win or lose at Edmonton, the Stealth have to maintain focus because they fly to Minneapolis the next night to take on the Swarm, who made it to the West Division final in 2012 before falling to the Rush 15-3.
Hall said his team has to be ready to play both nights and forget about the travel.
“It’s a convenient excuse if you play poorly, but I think that’s about all it is,” Hall said.
Aaron Lommers covers the Washington Stealth for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.