The Vancouver Stealth (1-1) used strong goaltending and were fueled by a raucous home crowd to defeat the Minnesota Swarm (0-2) by a score of 8-5 in their first-ever game at Langley Events Centre on Saturday night.
For the second straight game the Swarm held a commanding lead in shots on goal and scoring opportunities, and for the second straight game they ran into a hot goaltender on the other end of the floor. Vancouver’s Tyler Richards turned away 45 shots on his way to posting a stellar .900 saves percentage on the night. Minnesota outshot the Stealth 50-33 but were stymied time-and-time again by Richards and the Vancouver defense.
Trailing 6-4 heading into the fourth quarter, the Swarm outshot Vancouver by a 20-4 margin but did not break through until the 12:38 mark when T Kiel Matisz scored his third of the year picking up his own rebound on a great individual effort. Matisz was one of the few bright spots among the Swarm offense, netting three points (2g, 1a) including Minnesota’s first goal of the game.
The offensive stalemate spoiled another terrific effort by the Minnesota defense, who used a 70-51 edge on loose balls and 25 saves from goaltender Tyler Carlson to keep Vancouver within reach. Despite the disappointing loss, Minnesota coach Joe Sullivan made sure to give credit where credit was due.
“We limited their opportunities, we kept their shot selections to undesirable places that we thought played to our strengths,” Sullivan explained. “Carlson played strong, overall defensively I was real happy with our play.”
The Stealth utilized four-second half tallies to build upon a 4-3 lead at the half in what was an extremely tight game, including timely goals from rookie forwards Cody Bremner, who beat Carlson seconds after Minnesota killed off a Stealth power play late in the third quarter, and Tyler Digby, who scored his fourth goal of the season to put Vancouver up 7-4 2:09 into the final frame. Both Bremner and Digby managed an assist as well on the night.
After Vancouver F Rhys Duch spotted his team a 2-0 lead with back-to-back goals midway through the first, the two teams traded markers throughout the rest of the first half. Swarm rookie F Scott Jones buried his first career NLL goal to open the second quarter scoring, beating Richards with a cannon from the slot.
Fellow rookie forward Logan Schuss, a Ladner, B.C. native, also factored in the scoresheet in the second, tallying an assist on F Josh Gillam’s goal and then dropping the gloves in a spirited fight with Vancouver’s Justin Salt in the waning stages of the first half, after a scrum ensued in front of the Vancouver net.
Penalties were plentiful on Saturday, with 41 combined penalty minutes between the two squads. Vancouver went 1-for-4 with the man advantage and Minnesota went 1-for-6, failing to convert on a pair of key fourth quarter power plays and giving up a shorthanded goal to Vancouver’s Jeff Molesky in the opening frame.
Minnesota captain T Andrew Suitor had a strong game across floor, tallying six shots and eight loose balls, but only managed an assist.
The Swarm look to regroup next weekend when they begin a home-and-home series with the Philadelphia Wings on Saturday, followed by their 2014 home-opener on Sunday. According to Sullivan, his team’s approach is simple looking toward Philadelphia.
“The mindset is two wins. We can’t think of anything other than that. In order to get back to where we said we wanted to be we need two wins.”
The Stealth will host the Colorado Mammoth on Friday, Jan. 17 at 11 p.m. ET as they look for redemption in a rematch of their season-opening loss in Colorado in Week 2. The following night, Vancouver travels to take on the Calgary Roughnecks at 9 p.m. ET.
Meanwhile, the Swarm will play a back-to-back home-and-home with the Philadelphia Wings in Week 4, starting at Philly on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 12 p.m. ET before hosting the Wings for their home opener at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Tyler Richards
2) Rhys Duch
3) Mike Grimes