How do the Washington Stealth respond to their most disappointing loss of the season? Try arguably their most impressive victory since the team’s arrival in Everett prior to the 2010 season.
Washington (4-8) has had many impressive wins in that span and has been to back-to-back National Lacrosse League championship games, but Sunday’s 20-13 dismantling of the Minnesota Swarm might top them all.
After failing to take advantage of an opportunity to go 1 1/2 games up on Edmonton and tie the Rush in the season series on Saturday, the Stealth were faced with a near must win game on Sunday and they played like it.
The Stealth dominated all facets of the game. The only challenge as a sports writer was picking which storyline was the best. Rhys Duch’s 10-point effort (four goals, six assists), Tyler Richards 49 saves, defenseman Kyle Sorensen’s first career hat trick or the fact that five Stealth players scored multiple goals. The fact is each of those things is just as important as the next.
Washington now finds itself in a virtual tie with Edmonton (3-7) for fourth place in the NLL’s West Division. Edmonton has six games to play, while the Stealth have just four.
It was the most complete game the Stealth have played in a season marred by disappointing games. But against Minnesota everything clicked. The Stealth played with a confidence and a swagger not seen since their run to the championship game at the end of the 2011 season.
Duch was the best player on the floor not playing goalkeeper. His four-goal effort was a welcome sign that he is recovered from his injury that caused him to miss time earlier in the season. But even more important was how he set up his teammates. Duch looked like Steve Nash at times the way he was finding open man after open man. He shot the ball when necessary but always seemed to make the right pass especially on the power play.
Richards was incredible with his 49 saves, 19 of which came in the first period. It was the third straight game that Richards has shut down his opponent since returning to the team from an upper-body injury.
Sorenesen led the Stealth’s defense and transition getting out and running the floor and it paid off with three big goals.
The rest of the Stealth offense did its job. Five players had at least two goals and two of those players weren’t Lewis Ratcliff and Athan Iannucci who happen to be two of the Stealth’s three most powerful weapons. Ratcliff and Iannucci each scored a goal.
After the loss to Edmonton, I had nearly given up hope in this team. They had lost too many times, failed to take advantage of too many opportunities to turn this thing around. But this was the type of game that makes a statement. It was almost as if the Stealth were just tired of losing and unfortunately for the Swarm they were the team that was there for Washington to take its aggression out on.
Make no mistake, the Stealth aren’t out of the woods yet. Neither the Rush or the Stealth are likely to win out, but both teams almost need to do just that. The fact that the Rush have the season series means that Washington needs to not only keep pace with Edmonton but finish with a better record than the Rush if the two teams are tied for the final playoff spot after the last game of the regular season.
Though, if the Stealth can find a way to summons the kind of performance that they had on Sunday — no one is likely to beat them.
Player(s) of the game: Every Washington Stealth player, Stealth head coach Chris Hall says it takes a team effort to win in this league and that was a team effort if I ever saw one. Duch, Richards and Sorensen may standout, but you can pinpoint any one person in this impressive team victory.
Unsung hero of the game: Martin Cummings, Cummings scored his first two goals of the season for the Stealth and was an important part in the victory. Cummings is more of a role player, but if the role players start chipping in games like that the Stealth will be tough to beat.
Play(s) of the game: All three Sorensen goals, sure, Sorensen is a defenseman, but he didn’t play like it on Sunday. Each goal he scored was seemingly more impressive that the last and showed great athleticism. It was a big time performance from one of the Stealth’s leaders on the floor and in the locker room.