The Washington Stealth (8-6) clinched a playoff berth with a 12-11 road win over the Calgary Roughnecks (8-6) before a crowd of 10,008 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night.
“Obviously we are very happy,” said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. “It was an important game and our guys worked hard to come back from a tough loss last week and come out on top tonight.”
Roughnecks transition player Geoff Snider opened the scoring just seven seconds into the game by winning the faceoff and storming down the field. The Stealth answered 1:44 later to tie the game and after two Calgary goals, pulled within 3-2 with 14 seconds left in the first quarter.
After Washington scored twice to start the second quarter, Calgary scored four unanswered goals for a 7-4 halftime lead. The Stealth dominated the third quarter, ending it with a five-goal run to lead 10-9 after 45 minutes of play as Calgary couldn't stay out of the penalty box.
“We had a bad quarter, we were very, very undisciplined,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “If you play with fire, you are going to get burned. We have been playing with fire the last couple of games. The guys who got those penalties feel real bad...as they should.”
“We had a weak spot in the third, it’s something that has happened in previous games as well and it just can’t happen,” said Roughnecks forward Curtis Dickson. "We need to play a full game especially at this point in the season. But we are going to put this one behind us and focus on next week.”
After the Roughnecks scored twice 10 seconds apart 4:11 into the fourth quarter, the Stealth tied it with 3:45 left before Rhys Duch scored what proved to be the game-winning goal one minute later with 2:45 left on the clock.
“Our special teams were key, they got us ahead and shifted the momentum to our side,” Hall said. “We made some mistakes ourselves in the first half and we talked about it at half time and in the third we came out, fixed those mistakes and took advantage."
Calgary had a chance to tie it late but their pass was intercepted by Washington's defense as the Stealth held on for the win.
Duch finished with a game-high seven points (3+4), Lewis Ratcliff had five points (3+2) and Brett Bucktooth had four points (1+3) while Tyler Richards made 48 saves on 59 shots.
Dane Dobbie had a team-high five points (2+3), Dickson scored a hat trick, and Mike Poulin had 38 saves on 50 shots in the losing effort.
“Guys were battling hard but a couple of things weren’t going our way, we were working hard but it wasn’t enough," Dobbie said. “We had lots of chances, we just couldn’t capitalize.”
The Stealth took the season series with the Roughnecks, earning them the postseason tiebreaker. It was Washington's first win in Calgary since their West Division championship victory in 2011.
With the win, Hall became the fourth NLL head coach all-time with 80 career wins.
After missing the postseason last year with a 4-12 record, the Stealth, who won the Champion's Cup in 2010 and lost in the title game in 2011, will make their return to the playoffs.