DENVER — After a five-week absence, the Washington Stealth return home tonight with a chance to clinch a playoff spot.
The Stealth moved within one victory of the postseason Friday night with a 15-14 come-from-behind victory over the Colorado Mammoth before 15,102 fans at the Pepsi Center.
The West Division-leading Stealth (8-3) can become the first National Lacrosse League team to wrap up a playoff berth this season by beating the Mammoth in tonight’s rematch at Comcast Arena. The Stealth haven’t played at home since a Feb. 19 loss to Calgary.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” Stealth coach Chris Hall said in conference call earlier this week.
On Friday, the Stealth fell behind early and trailed 8-5 at halftime. Colorado’s Alex Gajic, who finished with a game-high six goals, scored a hat trick in the second quarter.
“We made seven or eight fundamental mistakes in the first half,” Hall said of the Stealth’s defensive effort. “I was pretty disappointed and I let them know in the locker room.”
After Gajic scored again 24 seconds into the third quarter, the Stealth rolled off four consecutive goals to tie the game 9-9.
The run was part of an eight-goal third period for Washington that gave the Stealth a 13-11 lead heading into the final period. Lewis Ratcliff had three goals in the quarter and Cam Sedgwick added two.
“We found ourselves in the second half,” Hall said. “We got ahead and did a good job to hold on. I’m proud of the way the guys dug themselves out of that first-half hole.”
Washington extended its lead to 14-11 before Colorado rallied to close the difference to 14-13 with just over two minutes to play. Washington’s Jeff Zywicki scored what proved to be the game-winner with 1:35 remaining.
Gajic scored his final goal on a penalty shot with 25 seconds left, but Colorado was unable to collect the equalizer. The one-goal loss was the fourth of the season for the Mammoth (2-8).
Ratcliff finished with five goals and one assist for Washington. Luke Wiles added two goals and five assists, and Paul Rabil had four assists.
Brian Langtry had three goals and four assists for the Mammoth.
Tonight is “Pink in the Rink Night” at Comcast Arena. The Stealth will be wearing special-edition pink helmets that will be auctioned off during the game. Proceeds go to the Puget Sound Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
This season, the NLL launched its “Black Out Breast Cancer” campaign to increase breast cancer awareness. Each of the league’s 11 teams will play host to a “Black Out Breast Cancer Night” during a home game between March 26 and April 3.
Stealth general manager Doug Locker said earlier in the week that he expects tonight’s crowd to be the largest of the season.
Stealth 15, Mammoth 14
First quarter: 1, Washington, L. Wiles 16 (C. Sedgwick, L. Ratcliff), 4:44. 2, Colorado, A. Gajic 16 (C. Conway, B. Langtry), 9:12. 3, Washington, J. Dalgarno 1 (J. Zywicki), 9:49. 4, Colorado, A. Gajic 17 (J. Shewchuk, C. Culp), 10:15. 5, Washington, L. Wiles 17 (C. Sedgwick), 11:53 (pp). 6, Colorado, D. Malawsky 1 (B. Langtry, N. Carlson), 12:22. Penalties-K. Kowalyk Was (holding), 1:28; T. Ethington Col (holding), 10:58; J. Bloom Was (checking from behind), 13:35.
Second quarter: 7, Washington, L. Ratcliff 22 (P. Rabil), 0:30 (sh). 8, Colorado, J. Shewchuk 17 (N. Carlson), 2:07. 9, Colorado, D. Malawsky 2 (C. Culp, C. Smith), 2:45. 10, Colorado, B. Langtry 12 (C. Smith, J. Shewchuk), 4:08. 11, Washington, L. Ratcliff 23 (M. Beers, K. Sorensen), 5:04. 12, Colorado, B. Langtry 13 (J. Shewchuk), 11:27. 13, Colorado, A. Gajic 18 (C. Conway, N. Carlson), 13:06. Penalties-served by C. Culp Col (delay of game (bench)), 5:04; served by J. Dalgarno Was (illegal substitution), 5:47.
Third quarter: 14, Colorado, A. Gajic 19 (B. Langtry, J. Gallant), 0:24. 15, Washington, C. Sedgwick 15 (L. Wiles, J. Zywicki), 0:56. 16, Washington, R. Duch 18 3:51. 17, Washington, C. Sedgwick 16 (L. Wiles), 4:40. 18, Washington, M. Grimes 4 (P. Rabil, J. Bloom), 4:55. 19, Colorado, A. Gajic 20 (B. Langtry, D. Malawsky), 7:11. 20, Washington, L. Ratcliff 24 (L. Wiles), 7:47. 21, Washington, J. Zywicki 26 (L. Wiles), 8:22. 22, Washington, L. Ratcliff 25 (P. Rabil), 11:57 (sh). 23, Colorado, B. Langtry 14 (A. Gajic, N. Carlson), 12:52 (pp). 24, Washington, L. Ratcliff 26 (L. Wiles, J. Dalgarno), 13:15. Penalties-B. Manney Was (holding), 11:06.
Fourth quarter: 25, Washington, J. Dalgarno 2 (R. Duch), 5:01. 26, Colorado, C. Culp 4 (N. Carlson, B. Richardson), 5:12. 27, Colorado, J. Prossner 10 (N. Carlson, C. Levis), 12:56. 28, Washington, J. Zywicki 27 (P. Rabil), 13:25. 29, Colorado, A. Gajic 21 14:35 (ps). Penalties-B. Murray Col (roughing), 6:25; served by J. Dalgarno Was (illegal substitution), 14:35.
Shots on goal: Washington 13-11-15-15-54. Colorado 10-16-10-13-49.
Power plays: Washington 1 of 3; Colorado 1 of 4.
Faceoffs: Washington 17 of 33; Colorado 16 of 33.
Goalies: Washington, Richards 4-3-0 (47 shots-33 saves); Roik 4-0-0 (2 shots-2 saves). Colorado, Leyshon 2-3-0 (36 shots-24 saves); Levis 0-6-0 (18 shots-15 saves).