EDMONTON — Washington Stealth head coach Chris Hall is never shy to say that Tyler Richards is his No. 1 goalkeeper.
Friday night, Richards proved why. After missing the past two games with a lower-body injury, Richards returned to the net and led the Stealth to a 12-10 road victory over the Edmonton Rush.
The victory was a little bit of payback by the Stealth, who just last Sunday lost to the Rush 18-10 at Comcast Arena.
It looked as though Friday’s game might follow a similar pattern as last week’s game. The first quarter was low-scoring and competitive and the Rush opened the second quarter with three consecutive goals to take a 6-2 lead.
Then something clicked for the Stealth.
Washington’s offense started to find the net. The defense picked up the intensity and Richards gave up just one goal in nearly 30 minutes of game time, including shutting out the Rush in the third quarter.
“He was very, very solid,” Hall said of Richards. “It’s pretty nice to for all of us and for the defense to know that they can take a gamble and you’ve got a guy back there who is sort of playing like a wall in goal and stopping a lot of great shots.
“It made a giant difference.”
Richards finished the game saving 37 of the 47 shots he faced.
Despite giving up six goals in the first 22 minutes, Richards said he felt good and credited the defense around him for stepping up their game.
“I didn’t really think I had that bad of a start,” Richards said. “I got a couple of unlucky bounces and I was confident in the way I was playing from the very get go. Our defense stepped up and kind of contained Mark Matthews and some of their big guns and let me see that ball tonight. It’s pretty easy when they do that.”
Matthews had nine points (4 goals, 5 assists) in last Sunday’s victory over the Stealth. On Friday, Washington held Matthews to just one goal and four assists.
“I know at halftime he had two points,” Hall said. “We talked about that as well that we can’t let him get off for six or seven here in the second half. We’ve done a good job on him in the first half. We have to keep putting pressure on him and make him work ultra-hard for his chances.”
The defense allowed just three goals in the second half, two of them were power-play goals — one scored by Ryan Ward and the other a late goal by Corey Small with just 8.3 seconds remaining in the game. Small’s goal cut the Stealth’s lead to one at 11-10, but with Bob Snider in the faceoff circle the Rush still didn’t have much of a chance.
“You know Bobby is controlling the faceoff circle as well as he is,” Hall said. “He really can grease the ball a little bit in there and keep knocking it around a little bit. It’s going to kill about five or six seconds off.”
Snider, who won 12 of his 21 faceoffs, did just that and Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson was called for illegal procedure giving the ball to the Stealth. Defenseman Kyle Sorensen took possession and flung the ball towards the Edmonton goal, scoring an empty-netter and giving the Stealth a 12-10 victory.
Less than a week after being held without a point, forward Lewis Ratcliff found his rhythm offensively once again, finishing the game with three goals and one assist.
“I think our offense in general was a little bit better tonight,” Ratcliff said. “We moved the ball much better. We played a much smarter game against a really good defense. We played into their hands last week. They did what they wanted to do. This week we tried to dictate what we were going to do instead of letting them push us around.”
Stealth 12, Rush 10
Washington2 433— 12
1st Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Salt Goal (Smith) 6:50; EDM — Small Goal (Ward, Davis) 8:38; EDM — Quinlan Goal (Matthews, Davis) 9:58; EDM — Burke Goal (Davis) 10:55; WAS — Duch Goal (Smith, Ratcliff) 12:55. Penalties: Rubisch, EDM (Roughing, Minor, 2 min) 12:32; Sorensen, WAS (Roughing, Minor, 2 min) 12:32. Goalie Changes: None.
2nd Quarter — Scoring: EDM — Matthews Goal (Quinlan, Knight) 1:57; EDM — Davis Goal 4:52; EDM — Turner Goal (PP) 6:59; WAS — McMichael Goal (Hodgson, Garrison) 9:33; WAS — Ratcliff Goal (Duch, Bucktooth) 10:45; WAS — Duch Goal 12:10; EDM — Small Goal (Matthews, Knight) 14:05; WAS — Smith Goal (Iannucci, Bucktooth) 14:22. Penalties: Garrison, WAS (Roughing, Minor, 2 min) 6:43; Rubisch, EDM (Fighting, Major, 5 min) 12:10; Beers, WAS (Major, 5 min) 12:10; Rubisch, EDM (Game Misconduct, 10 min) 12:10; Rubisch, EDM (Illegal Cross Checking, Major, 5 min) 12:10; LaFontaine, EDM (Unsportsmanlike Conduct, Misconduct, 10 min) 12:10; Beers, WAS (Slashing, Minor, 2 min) 12:10; Sorensen, WAS (Roughing, Minor, 2 min) 15:00; Davis, EDM (Roughing, Minor, 2 min) 15:00. Goalie Changes: None.
3rd Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Iannucci Goal (Buchanan) 6:00; WAS — Ratcliff Goal (Duch) 6:38; WAS — Buchanan Goal (Hill, Smith) 6:53. Penalties: Moleski, WAS (Slashing, Minor, 2 min) 7:46; Turner, EDM (Checking from Behind, Minor, 2 min) 12:09. Goalie Changes: None.
4th Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Ratcliff Goal (Iannucci, Buchanan) 2:21; EDM — Ward Goal (PP) (Matthews, Knight) 5:29; WAS — Hill Goal (Buchanan, Smith) 6:01; EDM — Ward Goal (PP) (Small) 12:15; EDM — Small Goal (Matthews, Cornwall) 14:52; WAS — Sorensen Goal (EN) 14:55. Penalties: Beers, WAS (Slashing, Minor, 2 min) 4:06; Sorensen, WAS (Illegal Cross Checking, Minor, 2 min) 10:18. Goalie Changes: None.
Aaron Lommers covers the Washington Stealth for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.