Two goals â€“ that proved to be the difference between the Vancouver Stealth playing in the post-season and hanging up their gloves and sticks until 2016.
Langleyâ€™s pro lacrosse team fell 14-13 to the visiting Calgary Roughnecks on Saturday in a game that decided the final playoff spot in the National Lacrosse Leagueâ€™s West Division.
In what was one of the most entertaining games of the regular season, the Stealth rallied from a three goal deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter but ended up losing by one in the final game of the regular season inside a rambunctious Langley Events Centre.
The Stealth ended their second season at the LEC with a 5-13 record while the Roughnecks finished 7-11 and in the playoffs.
Stealth sniper Rhys Duch scored a game-high six goals and finished the season with a career-high 105 points, fifth in the NLL.
â€œEverybody came to battle tonight,â€ Duch said. â€œOur strategy was working, Calgary pushed back but it was a heck of a game. It was a good game for the fans to be at; Iâ€™m glad we had so many out there.â€
â€œOur guys battled hard,â€ Stealth head coach Dan Perreault said. â€œIt was a great lacrosse game. Unfortunately we didnâ€™t get the outcome we wanted. Itâ€™s disappointing.â€
It was a perfect start for the Stealth, who came out flying, scoring the first four goals of the night.
Duch kicked things off for Vancouver, sneaking a shot five-hole for a 1-0 lead.
Corey Small then found the back of the net 42 seconds later beating Frankie Scigliano up close to make it 2-0.
Tyler Digby continued the Stealth run with the next two goals before Calgary countered with a pair of their own, but trailed 4-2 after the first quarter.
The teams played an even second quarter, with each scoring three goals. Duch tallied twice and Logan Schuss added the other second quarter marker for Vancouver, who went into halftime leading 7-5.
The Stealth got off to a promising start in the third quarter as Ilija Gajic scored on a breakaway 61 seconds into the frame to put his team up 8-5.
The Roughnecks wouldnâ€™t go down with a fight as they went on a 5-0 run to take their first lead of the game, thanks to Jeff Shattler, who gave Calgary their first lead, 9-8.
Digby stopped the damage by scoring his third of the game.
However, the Roughnecks countered with two more goals before the end of the quarter to go up 12-9 going into the final quarter.
â€œThat third quarter has been our Achilles heel all year,â€ Stealth transition player Tyler Garrison said. â€œI donâ€™t know why; weâ€™ll have to clean that up for next year. If you have pinpoint one thing today, it was that quarter.â€
In the fourth quarter, Vancouverâ€™s leading scorer decided to put the team on his back as Duch scored the next three goals of the game to tie the game at 12-12.
Calgary stole momentum back as Karson Leung took advantage of a Stealth turnover and beat Vancouver netminder Tyler Richards on a breakaway to put Calgary back in front by a goal.
Vancouver then once again tied the score as Small wired a shot past Scigliano to make it 13-13.
The shot that would eventually dash the Stealthâ€™s playoff hopes and end their season came off the stick of Calgaryâ€™s Jeff Shattler with 5:11 left in the fourth quarter.
The Stealth came inches away from tying the game once again but Duchâ€™s shot with 18 seconds remaining fell just shy of the goal line before it was covered up.
The Roughnecks proceeded to run the clock out and earned a post-season berth next week in Colorado.
â€œWe turned the ball over and made some mistakes in the third quarter, it certainly wasnâ€™t for a lack of effort,â€ noted Perreault.
â€œNot the result we were looking for but there was no quit,â€ Duch said. â€œWhen youâ€™re part of a group that doesnâ€™t quit, it speaks for itself. We played right down to the last whistle.â€
He added, â€œWe turned a corner in the organizationâ€¦ and itâ€™s unfortunate we donâ€™t get to move on but itâ€™s important moving forward for next season.â€