EVERETT —The absence of Washington Stealth forward Jeff Zywicki was evident Friday night.
Washington failed to mount a strong offensive attack against a physical Minnesota defense and fell 16-8 to the Swarm in a National Lacrosse League contest at Comcast Arena.
Zywicki, the third-leading scorer for the Stealth with 71 points (30 goals and 41 assists) last season, scored three goals in a season-opening win against Colorado, but the Nepean, Ontario, native suffered a lower-body injury against the Mammoth and was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.
The forward will miss at least six weeks, which could spell trouble as the Stealth offense failed to muster much in the way of excitement for the 3,362 fans in attendance.
“Do we miss Zywicki? Yes, we do,” Stealth head coach Chris Hall said. “But we’ve got depth here and the depth has got to start doing a better job.”
Washington added forward Craig Conn to the roster last Wednesday. Conn had one assist and picked up five loose balls in the loss.
“We’ll probably hear a lot about it, but there’s nothing we can do about it right now,” Stealth transition player Paul Rabil said of Zywicki’s departure. “Jeff’s a phenomenal player, everyone knows that, but we picked up Craig Conn … so we’ve just got to be able to use him to our advantage.”
Swarm (1-1 overall) forward Ryan Benesch had six goals and three assists and goaltender Nick Patterson made 49 saves as Minnesota sent Washington (1-2) to its second straight loss and its worst home loss since the Stealth relocated to Everett in June of 2009.
The Stealth found it difficult to break through Patterson as Rabil accounted for Washington’s only two goals spanning the entire second and third quarters. Washington shot just .103 (8-of-77) in the contest.
Forward Lewis Ratcliff, who scored five goals in a 13-11 defeat against Calgary last Sunday, had three goals and one assist for the Stealth. Rhys Duch added two goals and Matt Roik struggled in goal surrendering a .242 opponent shooting percentage (16-of-66).
“Clearly our offense is not in sync and not getting to the net,” Hall said. “We’ve got to pay the price to get inside and get our goals. We did a lot of standing around and shot the ball where we weren’t supposed to be shooting it.”
Roik’s difficult night highlighted another notable absence for the Stealth — goaltender Tyler Richards.
“He’s been nursing an injury since the end of training camp,” Hall said of Richards. “We’ve thought that he was going to be playable. He’s been in the ‘probable’ category and week-to-week it keeps coming back and he’s not quite ready yet. If he’s not ready to go next week we may be forced to do something.
When you don’t have the option of running another guy in there … we’ve had to ride (Roik) so that’s been a bit of an issue.”
Minnesota’s win helped the Swarm atone for a 14-10 first-round playoff loss to the Stealth last season.
Always a physical opponent, the Swarm used that physicality to pressure Washington into 10 penalties, including two Swarm penalty shots in the third quarter because a team isn’t allowed to have three men in the penalty box at the same time.
Benesch converted his free shot for a 13-5 lead with 3 minutes, 38 seconds left in the third quarter, but Zack Greer’s attempt was stopped.
Minnesota — which had seven penalties of its own — was 2-for-7 on the power play, Washington went 1-for-5.
“I think they played with a little more grit than we did, there’s no doubt about that,” Hall said. “Our defense needs to be a little nastier. We gave them good looks and they just need to be a little more punishing out there.”
“I’m sure they expected a physical game,” Minnesota head coach Mike Lines said. “Our speed and continuing to be physical from top to bottom for a full 60 minutes is obviously the difference in tonight’s game.”
For the second straight week, a slow first half hampered the Stealth as Minnesota built a healthy six-goal lead by halftime.
Patterson, an eight-year veteran from Victoria, B.C., was a force in goal for the Swarm in the first half. The 28-year-old stopped 26 shots while Minnesota ended the half with five straight scores and a 10-4 lead.
The 5-foot-11 Patterson helped hold Washington to a .111 shooting percentage (4-of-36) in the opening half. Minnesota shot .285 (10-of-35) in the first two quarters.
After Washington tied the game at 3-3 with 3:18 remaining in the first quarter, Minnesota outscored the Stealth 7-1 the rest of the half.
In two home games this season, the Stealth have been outscored 18-12 in the first half. In all games, Washington trails 21-17 in first-half scoring.
Swarm 16, Stealth 8
Minnesota 4 6 3 3 — 16
Washington 3 1 1 3 — 8
1st Quarter—1, Washington, R. Duch 6 (C. Sedgwick, L. Ratcliff), 2:10 (pp). 2, Minnesota, Z. Greer 2 (R. Benesch, C. Crawford), 2:48. 3, Minnesota, A. Wilson 1 (C. Crawford, M. Giles), 6:37 (pp). 4, Minnesota, R. Benesch 3 (C. Crawford), 7:30 (pp). 5, Washington, L. Ratcliff 6 (E. Martin), 10:44. 6, Washington, L. Ratcliff 7 (R. Duch, L. Wiles), 11:42. 7, Minnesota, Z. Greer 3 (T. Campeau, R. Morgan), 13:01. Penalties-A. Suitor Min (slashing), 1:50; E. Martin Was (slashing), 4:50; J. Bloom Was (slashing), 6:57; A. Suitor Min (fighting), 11:45; M. Beers Was (fighting), 11:45; R. Smith Min (slashing), 14:40; C. Crawford Min (slashing), 14:49; C. Hodgson Was (slashing), 14:49.
2nd Quarter—8, Minnesota, J. Sullivan 1 (K. Ross, M. Giles), 1:13 (sh). 9, Washington, P. Rabil 1 (C. Conn), 4:15. 10, Minnesota, C. Crawford 3 4:46. 11, Minnesota, R. Benesch 4 (S. Pollock), 5:41. 12, Minnesota, R. Benesch 5 (M. Giles, Z. Greer), 8:17. 13, Minnesota, R. Morgan 1 11:54. 14, Minnesota, R. Benesch 6 (C. Crawford), 13:50. Penalties-No Penalties.
3rd Quarter—15, Washington, P. Rabil 2 (E. Martin), 3:11 (sh). 16, Minnesota, R. Benesch 7 (A. Wilson, C. Crawford), 6:52. 17, Minnesota, M. Giles 3 (T. Campeau, A. Wilson), 8:52. 18, Minnesota, R. Benesch 8 11:22 (ps). Penalties-R. Duch Was (slashing), 1:35; J. Moleski Was (slashing), 4:38; C. McElroy Was (holding), 10:50; M. Grimes Was (slashing), 11:05; M. Beers Was (roughing), 11:22; M. Roik Was (slashing), 11:22.
4th Quarter—19, Minnesota, C. Crawford 4 (T. Campeau, K. Ross), 0:48. 20, Washington, L. Ratcliff 8 0:49. 21, Minnesota, A. Wilson 2 (R. Benesch), 0:50. 22, Washington, L. Wiles 3 (R. Duch, P. Rabil), 1:30. 23, Minnesota, M. Giles 4 (R. Benesch, T. Hill), 3:30. 24, Washington, R. Duch 7 (T. Johnson), 5:23. Penalties-M. Kelly Min (delay of game), 0:49; J. Sullivan Min (cross checking), 6:10; M. Kelly Min (high sticking), 8:52.
Shots on Goal-Minnesota 11-15-12-14-52. Washington 13-17-8-19-57.
Power Play Opportunities-Minnesota 2 of 7; Washington 1 of 5.
Faceoffs—-Minnesota 5 of 21; Washington 16 of 21.
Goalies-Minnesota, Patterson 0-1-0 (57 shots-49 saves). Washington, Roik 1-1-0 (52 shots-36 saves).
Referees—Todd Labranche (12), Greg Hart (24).