The Washington Stealth (9-7) clinched the second seed in the West Division and a home playoff game by riding a nine-point effort by Rhys Duch for a 17-13 win over the visiting Philadelphia Wings (7-9) at Comcast Arena on Saturday night.
“Goal number one was obviously making it into the playoffs,” said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. “But goal number two was playing in front of our home fans in our home building so that’s two down but still some more to go.”
With the win, the Stealth finished with a winning record for the first time since they finished at 10-6 in 2010, when they later went on to win the NLL Champion’s Cup.
With the loss, the Wings slipped to the third seed in the East and will travel to Rochester for the first round of the playoffs next weekend.
Duch finished the game with four goals and five assists, his second highest point total of the 2013 season. Duch ended the regular season with 45 goals in 2013 to win the first NLL goal scoring title of his five-year career.
“Accolades are awesome,” Duch said. “It’s great to be rewarded and recognized for your successes and obviously scoring goals is something that I take pride in. So it’s a cool feeling to win that award but I score goals to help my team win.”
After hitting a wall after a hot start to the season, Cliff Smith ended the season on a high note by finishing the night with two goals and five assists to cap off a career year for the lefty.
Lewis Ratcliff had three goals on the night for the Stealth while Dean Hill and Curtis Hodgson capped off the multi goal scorers for the Stealth by both scoring two on the night. It was the third multi-goal game of Hodgson’s career.
“It’s a huge win for the franchise not making the playoffs last year,” Hodgson said. “It’s been a thorn in our side all year and it was important for us and this franchise to get a home playoff game.”
After an early Athan Iannucci goal, the Stealth and Wings traded goals until two back-to-back shorthanded goals by captain Brodie Merrill put the Wings up 5-3 late in the quarter.
Following Merrill’s second, forward Dean Hill scored for the Stealth, beginning a five-goal run that lasted until 8:59 of the second quarter. This would be the only Philadelphia goal of the quarter as the Stealth went onto out score the Wings 6-1 in the second frame.
Washington carried their momentum into the second half by scoring the first four goals of the quarter and outscoring the Wings 4-3 to take a 14-9 lead into the final quarter.
The Wings got within three goals of the Stealth but were unable to get any closer as Washington cruised to the win.
The Wings were led offensively by Jordan Hall and Brendan Mundorf who both finished the night with two goals and three assists for five points. Merrill was the only other Philadelphia player with a multi-goal game finishing the night with two as well.
Tyler Richards made 38 saves on 51 Philadelphia shots finishing the season with a 10.92 goals against average which was good enough for fifth in the NLL. Richards also finished the season with 579 saves fourth in the NLL and the second-best save total in franchise history.
Brandon Miller only managed to stay in goal for 20 minutes on Saturday as he was lit up for eight Washington goals on just 19 shots. He was replaced by backup Angus Dineley following the Stealth’s eighth goal at 5:58 of the second quarter.
Wings transition star Paul Rabil was held scoreless in his first game back in Washington after being traded to Edmonton in exchange for Athan Iannucci last February.
The Stealth will host the Edmonton Rush next weekend in Everett and will look to avenge the two losses they suffered this season at the hands of the Rush.
“(Edmonton) presents a big challenge for us," Hall said. "The good news is we’ve played them enough times that we have a pretty good read on them. I would expect that it’s going to be a great battle.”