In what was a de facto playoff game, the Vancouver Stealth emerged victorious in a Saturday night showdown at the Langley Events Centre.
The Stealth were down 8-5 early in the third quarter to the visiting Calgary Roughnecks at the Langley Events Centre in National Lacrosse League action. But Vancouver rallied to tie the score at nine following three quarters and after the teams traded goals to open the fourth, the Stealth scored five of the final six goals to prevail 15-11.
The win was huge as it pulls the Stealth into the third and final playoff spot in the West Division at 7-9. Calgary — the team they are battling with for that spot — sits at 7-10.
The Stealth have two games remaining while Calgary plays just once more and Vancouver owns the tiebreaker should the two teams finish the season tied.
“It is one step closer to getting into the playoffs,” said Vancouver defender Ian Hawksbee, who finished with two assists and a game-high 14 loose balls. “(But) we still have lots of work to do. We want to earn our way in — we can’t take any days off.”
The first half was the Curtis Dickson show as the Calgary sniper scored four goals and assisted on another, having a hand in five of his team’s six goals. But the Stealth switched to Matt Beers as Dickson’s primary defender and having a bigger body with a longer reach seemed to make a difference as Dickson scored just once in the second half. And while the league’s leading scorer cooled down, the Stealth trio of Rhys Duch, Logan Schuss and Corey Small began heating up.
Schuss scored four of his give goals in the second half while Duch had six of his game-high nine points (two goals, seven assists) and Corey Small had three of his five assists in the final 30 minutes. All together, the Vancouver offence scored 10 times in the game’s 26 minutes. “It was just one of those games where the ball going in for me,” Schuss said. “It was about time … I was well overdue.” Schuss had gone three games without a goal and had just three in his previous six.
And while Small — the Stealth’s leading scorer — failed to find the back of the net (he did have five assists), Schuss said that is the beauty of the team’s roster: when one player garners extra attention, Vancouver has enough weapons for someone else to step up.
While there was elation in the Vancouver locker room, it was a sombre mood on the other side. “You get down a couple and you have to start extending yourself and it turns into a four-goal loss,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. “The guys left it all out on the floor. I am proud of the guys — (this loss) wasn’t for lack of effort.”
A big turning point in the game was Duch’s goal 33 seconds into the fourth quarter which gave Vancouver a 10-9 lead. “Big time players come up big time and I thought that was huge goal for them,” Malawsky said. Another big play in the fourth quarter came with the Stealth holding a 12-11 lead will less than six minutes to go.
The Roughnecks came close on tying the game, but Tye Belanger not only came up with the save — one of 39 he made on the night — but he sprung Justin Salt on a breakaway. And while Salt’s shot was high and off-target, the ball took a fortuitous bounce back in front to a trailing Cliff Smith. Smith made no mistake and it was a two-goal game with 5:29 to go.
The goal was one of four in transition for the Stealth. “The transition game was the difference,” said Vancouver coach Jamie Batley. “Four transition goals tonight and that was the difference right there.” The Stealth will host the Colorado Mammoth (9-7) on Saturday night at the LEC, knowing that a victory would earn them a playoff game in May.
Calgary can only sit and watch as they are on a bye and must wait until their regular season finale on April 29 at home to the Saskatchewan Rush (10-5). The Roughnecks had won three straight entering this weekend, but now they are forced to rely on others. “At this point, all we can do is scoreboard watch next weekend,” Malawksy said.
Duch led all scorers with two goals and nine points while Schuss (five goals) and Small (five assists) each had five points. Joel McCready (two goals, one assist), Jordan Durston (one goal, three assists), James Rahe (one goal, two assists) and Justin Salt (one goal, two assists), Curtis Hodgson (two assists), Ian Hawskbee (two assists) and Tye Belanger (two assists) also had multi-point games.
The rest of the offense came from singles goals from Matt Beers, Cliff Smith and Evan Messenger.
Calgary was led by Curtis Dickson’s five goals and six points while Dane Dobbie had one goal, three assists.
Wesley Berg (two goals, one assist) and Tyler Digby (one goal, two assists) each had three-point games. Holden Cattoni (five assists) and Jeff Shattler (four assists) both also had big games. Frank Scigliano made 43 saves as Calgary was outshot 58-50.
In the first half, it was the ‘Superman’ show as Calgary’s Curtis Dickson led the way with four goals.
But the Stealth made a switch at the half, putting Matt Beers on the Roughnecks sniper. Beers also delivered a huge hit on the Calgary star, who finished the game with five goals and six points, but had just one goal over the final 30 minutes. And while the Vancouver defense was able to contain Dickson, the Stealth offence came to life with 10 second-half goals.
Four of those were off the stick of Logan Schuss, the game’s first star after scoring five goals. “It was just one of the games where the ball was going in for me,” Schuss said. “It was about time that I did; it was well overdue.” Entering the game, Schuss had gone goal-less in his past three games, and had just three goals over the final six games.