EVERETT — The Washington Stealth are trying to move from being consistently inconsistent to consistently good.
They took a big step in the right direction Sunday at Comcast Arena with an 11-8 victory over the Minnesota Swarm.
With the victory and Calgary’s loss to Edmonton on Saturday, the Stealth (6-4) strengthened their hold on first place in the National Lacrosse League’s West Division and in the process evened the season series with the Swarm.
Washington fell behind with 10:15 to play in the first quarter when Kiel Matisz scored the first goal of the game, but the Stealth bounced back quickly.
Defenseman Jeff Moleski scored the Stealth’s first goal of the night when he grabbed a rebound off his own shot and put a second shot past Tyler Carlson to tie the score. The Stealth took the lead when Lewis Ratcliff scored his only goal of the night with 5:46 to go in the opening quarter.
The Stealth never trailed the rest of the way.
The Stealth took control of the game in the second quarter, thanks to forward Athan Iannucci, who scored three straight goals in the first 3:20 of the period.
“That’s what I expect from myself every game if possible,” Iannucci said. “I’ve been feeling good. I feel like I’ve been developing a good chemistry with (Rhys Duch) and some of the other guys on the offensive side too, so yeah, it feels good.”
Iannucci finished the game with six points, scoring four goals with two assists.
Goals were at a premium with Carlson and Stealth netminder Tyler Richards at the top of their games, but Iannucci and Stealth forward Brett Bucktooth both had big games.
Bucktooth matched Iannucci with six points on three goals and three assists. He scored the Stealth’s only two goals of the fourth quarter to help put the game away.
“The ball just found us and you just have to make your shots,” Bucktooth said. “Fortunately, I was able to find the net.”
The Stealth’s 11 goals were more than enough with Richards in goal. He saved 43 of the 51 shots he faced, continuing his recent string of elite play.
“It’s great,” Iannucci said of Richards’ play. “There are times where you are like, ‘Oh here comes a goal.’ And then he makes a save. Now we are starting to get to the point where we almost expect it. One goes in and we are like, ‘Come on, you are supposed to be impenetrable here.’
“He’s great confidence for our defense and our offense. Everyone can play a little more relaxed. As long as this guy stays out of the penalty box.”
Iannucci was joking with Richards, who was standing nearby, about picking up his second penalty in as many games. This week it was a two-minute penalty for roughing. Minnesota’s Jay Card went for a shot and landed in the crease. With the ball still in play, Richards kept his focus on the ball though he had Card straddled to the point he couldn’t move.
“I kind of take it personal when guys are diving at my knees,” Richards said. “It’s my livelihood on the line and sometimes I get a little fired up when guys dive through and don’t really make the effort to avoid me.”
After the game Richards had a sense of humor about the play.
“The rule is, if there is a player in the crease they can’t score a goal,” he said. “So I was just trying to keep him in there for as much of the 30 (second shot clock) as possible.”
The victory gives the Stealth consecutive wins for just the second time this season. And head coach Chris Hall was satisfied with his team’s play after the game.
“We played very well,” Hall said. “Even when Minnesota came at us, I think we held up pretty well. T-Rich (Richards) was big of course and we got a couple of key goals from Bucktooth late, so I’m pretty happy obviously.”
Aaron Lommers covers the Washington Stealth for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stealth 11, Swarm 8
Minnesota 1 2 3 2 — 8
Washington 2 5 2 2 — 11
1st Quarter — Scoring: MIN — Matisz Goal (Hass) 4:45; WAS — Moleski Goal 6:40; WAS — Ratcliff Goal (Iannucci, Bucktooth) 9:14. Goalie Changes: None.
2nd Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Iannucci Goal (Duch, Ratcliff) 1:03; WAS — Iannucci Goal (PP) (Bucktooth, Duch) 1:45; WAS — Iannucci Goal (Grimes) 3:20; MIN — Card Goal (Tao) 5:10; WAS — Hill Goal (Bucktooth, Duch) 11:44; WAS — Bucktooth Goal (Smith) 11:51; MIN — Bilic Goal (MacIntosh) 12:00. Goalie Changes: None.
3rd Quarter — Scoring: MIN — MacIntosh Goal (Crawford, Benesch) 3:21; WAS — Duch Goal (Ratcliff, Beers) 4:11; MIN — Gilbert Goal (Sorensen) 6:43; MIN — Crawford Goal (Benesch, Jackson) 12:08; WAS — Iannucci Goal (Hill) 14:16. Goalie Changes: None.
4th Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Bucktooth Goal (EA) (Iannucci, Duch) 0:30; MIN — Crawford Goal (Downing) 3:37; MIN — Jackson Goal 3:51; WAS — Bucktooth Goal (Duch) 10:16. Goalie Changes: None.