It didn’t take the Washington Stealth long to show they have no intention of letting 2013 be a repeat of 2012. The Stealth rode hat tricks from Cliff Smith and Rhys Duch to a 13-12 win over the Rochester Knighthawks in the opening game of the National Lacrosse League season last night in front of over 7,000 delighted home fans.
The game was as exciting as the final suggests, a seesaw battle that saw Athan Iannucci bury the winner on one of his patented power-forward goals with 1:23 to go. Nooch drove between two defenders and buried an overhand shot as he was being knocked to the floor. Replays showed his feet were excruciatingly close to touching down in the crease before the ball entered the net, but the video review upheld the goal and put Washington ahead for good.
The outcome wasn’t certain until the final buzzer, though, especially since it appeared Rochester may have scored to tie it up. An outside shot looked like it may have bounced in and out of the net. Knighthawks players gesticulated wildly to show they thought the ball was in. Play continued for what must have seemed like forever to Rochester fans. When it finally stopped, the video was reviewed and the on-floor call of no goal stood. Washington managed to kill the final handful of seconds in a scrambly countdown to full time.
The Stealth led 3-1 after the first quarter. Rochester rode five second-quarter goals, including a shorthanded breakaway marker by Scott Campbell, to even things up at 6-6 at half time. Cory Vitarelli’s third goal of the night gave the visitors a 9-8 lead heading into the final 15 minutes. Stephen Keogh extended the K’Hawks lead to open the fourth on one of several long-range bombs to elude Tyler Richards on the evening, but the home side wasn’t to be denied.
Washington scored four of the last five goals to pull out the win, in which they outshot Rochester 64-47. Only two penalties were called against each team in the fast-paced game. Johnny Powless of Rochester scored the only power play goal.
Smith added five assists for an eight-point night and Duch had a trio of helpers to go along with his hat trick. Iannucci and Lewis Ratcliff each scored twice for Washington. The Stealth got a strong effort from their contingent of rookies. Kyle Buchanan had four assists and defender Tyler Garrison looked right at home in his pro debut. Tim Henderson didn’t look out of place in the back end. The top rookie, though, was probably Mitch McMichael. He was a leading transition presence throughout the game and scooped up a rebound to put home a dandy goal that gave the Stealth a 12-11 lead with just under six minutes to play.
Cody Jamieson and Powless each scored five points to lead the Knighthawks; Powless had two goals and Jamieson one. Joe Walters scored twice and added a pair of helpers. Matt Vinc made 51 saves in a losing effort.
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