By Mark Nelson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — It took the Edmonton Rush the entire contest to work their way back and send Saturday night’s game into overtime
It took eight seconds for the Washington Stealth to earn a spot in the National Lacrosse League title game.
Paul Rabil’s strike just seconds into the extra frame gave Washington a 12-11 win and the West Division championship at Seattle’s KeyArena.
Stealth face-off specialist Jamison Koesterer won the opening face-off and knocked the ball to Rabil who went full-steam ahead one-on-one with a lone Edmonton defender.
Rabil charged hard at the cage and scored, setting up a Champion’s Cup matchup next Saturday in Everett with the Toronto Rock and former Stealth captain Colin Doyle.
“Jamison won the ball clean and I was able to get a step on the whistle and I picked it up in full stride,” Rabil said. “I normally wouldn’t go straight to the net like that especially in overtime, but I had a full head of steam and their only defender was standing still so I just figured I would attack.”
“He’s a big game player, he gets a full head of steam and he’s going one-on-one, goes right around him and the rest is history,” Washington’s Rhys Duch said of Rabil.
Rabil, Jeff Zywicki and Luke Wiles all finished the game with three goals as Edmonton clawed back into the contest throughout the second half.
Rush forward Andy Secore received a pass from Ryan Ward and scored with a shot through traffic to tie the score at 11-11 with 20 seconds remaining in the game, deflating the crowd of 4,242. Edmonton’s Corey Small brought the Rush to within one goal 35 seconds earlier when he scored in the face of Washington goaltender Tyler Richards.
Richards finished the game with 35 saves and improved his playoff record to 2-0.
“It was two extremes as far as emotions go,” Edmonton’s Ward said. “We were so elated and couldn’t believe that we clawed back and went to overtime, but Paul Rabil made a great play, he just got the ball and made the play and it was over. It was very unfortunate to end like that.”
Edmonton (11-8) came back from down 6-1 with three straight goals in the second quarter paired with three straight to end regulation.
Rush goaltender Matt Disher made 44 saves in goal, a week after stopping 60 shots to defeat Calgary in a divisional semifinal game. Brodie Merrill finished with a game-high 15 loose balls and tallied a goal with 3:39 remaining in the game to start Edmonton’s late comeback.
The West Division title sets up a unique storyline for the championship game to be held at Comcast Arena.
Toronto, which features former Stealth captain Colin Doyle who was traded three weeks before the season for Lewis Ratcliff, Joel Dalgarno and Tyler Codron, beat the Orlando Titans 15-10 earlier Saturday.
The meeting will be the first between the teams this season and many players on the Stealth are very familiar with their former captain and points leader.
“How about that for a win-win,” Stealth head coach Chris Hall said. “The teams trade superstars and they both end up in the championship, it’s a pretty wild story. It’s going to be a great game — the Rock versus the Stealth — and Doyle comes back here to try to win a championship.”
Rhys Duch finished with two goals and one assist a week after posting an 11-point game in a 14-10 win over Minnesota.
Cam Sedgwick added a goal and Lewis Ratcliff, the regular-season goal scoring leader added four assists for Washington.
Along with Doyle, the Rock present a bevy of talent with high-scoring rookies Garrett Billings and Stephan LeBlanc and solid goaltending
“They’ve done a great job,” Hall said. “They present a tough task and Bob Watson has anchored a number of NLL champions in goal … obviously they started out a little slow, but their systems are in place now and they’re playing great.”