By Gary Ahuja | NLL.com Staff Writer
Photo Garrett James
It was a second half turnaround very few likely saw coming.
Trailing at the half to the visiting Toronto Rock, and not showing much on the offensive end of the floor, the Vancouver Stealth came alive in the third quarter, fighting their way back into the National Lacrosse League game at the Langley Events Centre on Friday night.
A 7-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters helped the Stealth erase a 6-3 halftime deficit to defeat the Toronto Rock 14-11. The win improved Vancouver to 6-8 while Toronto fell to 8-6.
The Rock also beat the Stealth 13-7 last week in Toronto.
“We had six bad quarters as a team, and we addressed that,” said Vancouver captain Curtis Hodgson. “I think we had a little bit more jam in the second half (and) I thought we ran the floor well and the other big thing was we stuck with our systems and got some good looks as we kept grinding away.”
It also helped that the struggling offence — they had scored a season-low seven goals the game before — did a 180 degree turn from the first half.
After the teams traded goals to open the first quarter, Matt Beers, Rhys Duch and Corey Small scored in a 2:31 span to pull the Stealth on even terms.
Three quick Rock goals in less than two minutes to restore the three-goal difference didn’t deter the Stealth however.
Hodgson — who had just three shots on goal entering the game all season — beat Nick Rose with a long-range goal. It was the veteran defender’s first goal since Feb. 14, 2015, and cued the comeback. While some players may have opted to hold back and let the offence set up, Hodgson knew he had a green light to go.
“Jamie (Batley) is always preaching to us run the floor and I saw a good opportunity for a bit of a screen and just put it on net and luckily it went in,” he said. “It was just nice to contribute.” And while Hodgson might not be known for his play at the end of the floor, it was a more familiar face accustomed to scoring, who next stole the show.
Jordan fought off two Rock defenders behind the net, and with the shot clock winding down, leapt from behind the goal and tucked the ball in to pull the team within a goal after three quarters.
Small would then tie the score at 10 and Durston gave Vancouver its first lead with a cheeky, behind the back effort on the power play.
Joel McCready and Durston with his third goal rounded out the 7-0 run before the Rock got one goal back late. Small had four goals and three assists while Durston was right behind with three goals and three helpers. “We were a little stale in the first. We wanted to stick to our game plan,” Durston explained.
The players also heeded their coach’s advice. “Make sure you can look in the mirror and know that you put everything on the floor,” Stealth coach Jamie Batley said about his halftime message. “(Toronto) played great and packed it in and we didn’t penetrate. We did that in the second half and that was the difference.”
Batley also said his team benefitted from the emotion and physical play on the floor. “We don’t mind getting into a physical game, We are one of the most physical teams in the league,” he said. “Defensively, teams don’t like playing against us. It is a fine line but we have to be physical against everybody.”
Rock head coach Matt Sawyer said the Stealth were the more energetic squad in the second half. “They started winning the one-on-one battles and were just better than us in the second half,” he said. “We had some opportunities to put the game away and we took a few shortcuts and it came back to bite us.”
The Rock won’t have to wait long to play again as they travel back east to face the New England Black Wolves on Sunday afternoon. The Stealth are off until next Saturday when they visit the Saskatchewan Rush.
With a goal and three assists, Vancouver’s Rhys Duch joined the NLL’s 800-point club.
McCready chipped in with a pair of goals, while Cory Conway (one goal, two assists) and Peter McFetridge (one goal) also found the scoresheet.
Tye Belanger finished with 37 saves for the Stealth.
Toronto was led by rookie Tom Schreiber who had four goals and three assists. Stephen Leblanc had five assists and Kasey Beirnes (two goals), Reid Reinholdt (two goals, three assists) and Brett Hickey (one goal, two assists) also had multi-point games.