It’s fair to say that the Colorado Mammoth have had the Vancouver Stealth’s number this season. Having lost their first two matches against the Colorado franchise in the last few months, the Stealth were hoping to turn the season-series around at home this St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately for them, despite multiple runs to keep the game close, the home team fell short, ultimately collecting their twelfth loss of the season off a 13-10 defeat.
In the first 15 minutes, Stealth goaltender Eric Penney struggled to stop the Mammoth’s crisp, aggressive attack. Penney tallied 12 saves but allowed four goals while his counterpart on the Mammoth, Dillon Ward, snagged nine of the ten shots he faced.
Within the first five minutes of the second quarter, Penney had allowed two more goals, but, letting that sixth score get by him seemed to have sparked a turnaround in the 25-year-old’s play. Over the next 30 minutes, Penney would surrender just two more goals.
“Overall [Penney] was at 77% [save percentage],” noted Stealth head coach Jamie Batley when speaking of Penney’s night. “The weak little one that got in there, if he saves that one, he’s up around 80%; you can’t ask for more than that…Even the goals that Penney let in on the power play, how do you fault him on those? How do you fault him on breakaways? You can’t do that. They had three breakaway goals in transition, so, I thought he played great tonight.”
Penney’s performance through the middle-half of the match gave the Stealth multiple chances to climb back into the game after falling behind 6-2, and his teammates delivered. Midway through the second quarter, Rhys Duch and James Rahe netted goals to cut the lead to 6-4 but saw the Mammoth lead grow again in the waning moments of the first half when Eli McLaughlin scored a power play goal to cap off a successful first 30 minutes for his team.
The Stealth clawed back into the match through the third. The home side scored the period’s first three goals to tie the game at 7-7 but would allow the Mammoth to take control once again, this time surrendering a late-quarter goal to give the Mammoth an 8-7 lead.
Stealth forward Joel McCready played a significant role in the comeback scoring two goals in the third and then completing a hat trick within the first 90 seconds of the fourth quarter to tie the game back up at 8-8.
Eventually, though, the Mammoth had too many answers to the Stealth’s runs as they would finish the game scoring five of the final seven goals in the contest. Furthermore, each of those five goals was scored by a different player, and, on the night, the Mammoth were able to get nine players on the scoresheet including Captain Robert Hope who lumbered down the turf in the fourth quarter on a solo fast break to tally his second career goal and his first score since January 9th, 2016.
McCready and Tony Malcolm were the offensive stars for the Stealth on this unlucky night. They combined for five of the team’s ten goals and Malcolm delivered three assists. Yet, McCready knows that it takes more than a couple of guys to give strong outings to start winning again.
“On a personal level, I know that some guys are struggling, but everyone is trying to pick each other up,” McCready said post-game. “It’s been tough because now we’re two-thirds of the way through the season – you almost have to have a short-term memory – and you have to show up and say, ‘I’m going to lean on my teammates, and they’re going to be able to count on me, and I’m going to lay it out on the line for them.’”
The dark mood in the locker room is understandable. The team is on pace for its worst record in franchise history and tonight’s loss for the Stealth set a new mark in futility. Tonight, the Stealth lost their eighth game in a row to set a new franchise record for their longest losing streak. The Stealth organization had lost seven in a row on three occasions (once each in 2005, 2006, and 2016) but now they have a new mark, a mark that they hope won’t grow as the weeks go by.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom as the final buzzer sounded, however. Two Stealth players achieved significant milestones in the loss. Defenseman Ian Hawksbee grabbed seven loose balls to bring his season total to 105. It is the seventh time in his career that he has passed the century mark in loose balls. Also, Logan Schuss has now surpassed 250 points in a Stealth uniform. His goal and four assists on the night brought his four-year Stealth points total to 251.
If the Stealth want to end their historic losing streak, they will have to play some of their best ball of the season next week when the head to Colorado for a rematch of tonight’s clash. If the Stealth lose, they will have been swept by their West Division foes four games to none this season. That game will be featured on NLLTV.com at 9:00 pm EST.