PHILADELPHIA — Taking the floor after a cross-country flight and facing a Philadelphia Wings team that had won three straight National Lacrosse League games, Saturday night’s task seemed daunting for the Washington Stealth.
Somehow they managed to make it look easy.
After falling behind 2-1, the Stealth scored nine of the next 10 goals to pull away from the Philadelphia Wings en route to a 16-10 victory.
The victory was a season-high third straight for the Stealth, who improved to 7-4 and maintained their hold on first place in the NLL’s West Division. The Stealth’s three-game winning streak is the longest current streak in the league after ending Philadelphia’s.
“Winning here on the road, it’s a tough building to win in,” Stealth head coach Chris Hall said. “They’ve got a good team and they were on a roll. To come in and take one away was a good win for us.”
Rhys Duch had five goals and Lewis Ratcliff had four to lead the Stealth’s offensive attack.
It was a breakout game for Ratcliff who had been struggling in recent weeks, but finished with four goals and three assists on Saturday.
Ratcliff scored his third goal of the game with 2:58 to play in the second quarter. Not only did the goal give him a hat trick, but it was also his 400th career goal in the NLL.
“It was nice just to have a bit of a breakout game after the past couple of weeks,” Ratcliff said. “To be honest, I forgot that it was 400 and (my teammates) started to go get the ball and I thought they were making fun of me when I scored my third one there and then it kind of reminded me that it was 400.
“It was pretty cool. It’s a big honor and I hope to keep going and get to 500 one day.”
While hat tricks haven’t been so easy to come by for Ratcliff this season, they haven’t been a problem for Duch, who had his eighth in 11 games. He just missed becoming the first Stealth player to record a sock trick this season coming up a goal short.
Ratcliff said that with as potent of an offense as the Stealth have, it is often a different player who steps up every game.
“Honestly with our offense it doesn’t really matter who scores as long as the offense is scoring,” he said. “Two weeks ago I had one goal and wasn’t shooting well, but I had six assists. As long as we are burying goals it doesn’t really matter. Tonight it was my turn to score a few.”
It wasn’t Philadelphia forward Kevin Crowley’s turn. Crowley came in leading the Wings with 15 goals, but couldn’t get any of his 15 shots past Stealth goalkeeper Tyler Richards. Richards made saves on 42 of the 52 shots he saw on the night for an .808 save percentage, which has become the standard for him — he came into the game averaging .807.
“In my opinion, I can’t think of a more valuable player in the league right now,” Ratcliff said. “He is making saves that he shouldn’t make as well as all the ones he should. He’s holding team to eight, nine and 10 goals. It’s a lot easier when we know we only have to get 11 or 12 to win.”
Paul Rabil, a former Stealth player, scored two goals for the Wings.
Stealth 16, Wings 10
Washington 4 6 3 3 — 16
Philadelphia 2 1 3 4 — 10
1st Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Sorensen Goal (Moleski) 1:18; PHI — Hall Goal (PP) (Crowley, Rabil) 5:13; PHI — McLellan Goal (Crowley) 7:00; WAS — Duch Goal (SH) (Ratcliff, Iannucci) 9:56; WAS — Ratcliff Goal (Smith, Duch) 12:17; WAS — Iannucci Goal (McMichael, Ratcliff) 13:09. Goalie Changes: None.
2nd Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Ratcliff Goal (Grimes, McMichael) 1:38; PHI — Heim Goal (White) 2:10; WAS — Salt Goal (Garrison, Hodgson) 4:43; WAS — Moleski Goal (SH) (Hodgson) 6:04; WAS —- Bucktooth Goal (PP) (Ratcliff, Hill) 9:41; WAS — Ratcliff Goal (Smith, Moleski) 12:02; WAS — Hill Goal (EA) (Duch, Richards) 14:58. Goalie Changes: None.
3rd Quarter — Scoring: PHI — Sweeney Goal (Manley) 3:41; WAS — Duch Goal 4:00; PHI — White Goal (Miller) 5:03; WAS — Duch Goal (Iannucci, Sorensen) 6:49; WAS — Salt Goal (SH) (Richards) 8:22; PHI — Rabil Goal (Westervelt, Buchanan) 14:40. Goalie Changes: None.
4th Quarter — Scoring: PHI — Ross Goal (Crowley, Westervelt) 5:39; PHI — Westervelt Goal (SH) (White) 6:50; WAS — Ratcliff Goal (Hill, Duch) 7:44; PHI — Rabil Goal (PP) (Ross, Crowley) 10:32; WAS — Duch Goal (SH) (Moleski, Grimes) 12:34; PHI — Sweeney Goal (PP) (Buchanan, Westervelt) 12:56; WAS — Duch Goal (SH) (Snider) 13:10. Goalie Changes: None.