Of the 60:45 of Saturday night’s overtime contest, the Vancouver Stealth led for 57:26, were tied for 4:19 and trailed for zero seconds. But the end result was still the same as it has been throughout this National Lacrosse League season: another loss for the Stealth.
This time it was the visiting New England Black Wolves adding to Vancouver’s misery as the Stealth fell to 1-10 — and 0-5 at the Langley Events Centre — thanks to a 12-11 overtime defeat. The loss has the team grasping for answers. “We felt like we battled all game and it gave it our all,” said Andrew Suitor. “We are just not getting the bounces and the outcome. It is easy to blame it on the bounces but at some point you … just have to do something to change how those bounces are going.”
Vancouver opened the scoring 78 seconds in on Corey Small’s first of two goals and the team led 2-0 after one quarter and 5-3 at the half.
The Black Wolves pulled within one at 9-8 after three and finally levelled the score at 12:44 of the fourth quarter on Kevin Crowley’s first of the night.
In overtime, New England gained possession first, but after the Stealth forced a turnover, the Black Wolves were able to stop them in transition, get the ball back and win it on Stephan Leblanc’s fourth of the game, 45 seconds into the sudden-death period. “Each game is big. As much as Vancouver’s record isn’t a very good record, we know they are capable of beating any team in this league,” Leblanc said. The win improved New England to 5-4 as all five times in the East Division are within two games of one another.
“The ‘D’ kept the game manageable and gave the ‘O’ a chance to find its groove,” said New England coach Glenn Clark. “We didn’t let it get out of hand, we didn’t let them get on runs and Aaron Bold was a big part of that.” Bold finished with 50 saves as New England was outshot 61-60. “One of our emphasis prior to the game was run, was get some in transition and we had four transition goals. Those are ones that can be game changers,” Clark added.
Result aside, Stealth head coach Jamie Batley was preaching the positives. “That is a great game we played, We are happy with our effort, we are not happy with the outcome obviously,” he said, calling it his team’s best game. One blemish would be the fact he felt they should have been able to come away with a few more goals. “We left a couple of opportunities on the table,” Batley said.
But the goaltending — Eric Penney made 48 saves, an .800 save percentage — was good, the transition delivered multiple goals, and the team finished on the positive side of the ledger in that aspect with Brendan Fowler winning 15 of 27 face-offs. That translates to a .555 success rate, well above the team’s .364 percentage heading into the game.
Having the ball more meant stopping New England from stringing together runs, Batley said. The Stealth were also never short-handed as there were just three penalties in the game with Vancouver capitalizing on their lone power-play chance while the other two penalties were coincidental minors.
But in the end, none of that was enough. “It’s tough (to lose like that) but that’s the NLL in a nutshell. You have to seal games,” Suitor said. “(Losing) sucks, it sucks for our fans, we love our fans, we want to win for our fans, we are sticking together as at team, no one is turning on each other. Everyone believes in each other, everyone loves each other, we love our fans, we can’t give them the outcome we want but we are giving it our all for our fans.”
In addition to Leblanc’s five-point game, Johnny Powless (two goals, one assist) and Colton Watkinson (two goals) also had multi-goal games. Crowley, Adam Bomberry, Seth Oakes and John LaFontaine had the other goals. Shawn Evans had three assists.
The Stealth were led by Suitor’s two goals, while Joel McCready and Rhys Duch each had two goals and two assists. Corey Small also found the back of the net twice while Travis Cornwall (one goal, two assists) and Matt Beers (one goal, one assist) and Tony Malcom rounded out the scoring.