Mammoth hand Langley-based Stealth their fifth straight loss

These are dark days for the Vancouver Stealth.

The positivity that came from winning two of three games to open their National Lacrosse League season has pretty much evaporated.

Since their last win, a 14-13 overtime triumph over the visiting Colorado Mammoth Jan. 17 at the Langley Events Centre, the Stealth have dropped five in a row and, with a 2-6 record, are hunkered in the basement of the NLL’s four-team West Division standings.

Both Stealth wins have come against NLL lightweights Minnesota Swarm (1-5) and the Mammoth (4-5).

The Mammoth added to the Stealth’s woes on Saturday, downing Vancouver 10-9 in front of 3,614 fans at the LEC.

The Mammoth, who won their third game in a row, took a 2-1 season series lead over Vancouver with all three games being decided by just one goal.

Early on it was a goalie showdown as only four goals were scored in the entire first half. And the Stealth’s offensive struggles continued.

With leading scorer Rhys Duch out of the lineup due to a one-game suspension after being assessed with a cross-checking major on Jan. 25, Vancouver only managed one goal in the first half of play.

A few of Vancouver’s top offensive players, including lefty Lewis Ratcliff, who only managed one assist, were held goal-less.

Tyler Richards stopped 18 of 21 shots for the Stealth and Dillon Ward stopped 22 of 23 shots for the Mammoth.

“He was brilliant in the first half,” said Colorado Mammoth coach Bob Hamley, speaking about Ward. “Our defence was sensational as well. As for Dillon, he had the answer all night. With the gaffe at the end of the game, Dillon bailed us out.”

In the second half, both teams seemed to find their scoring touch as the Stealth climbed back into the game, but the Mammoth seemed to always have an answer.

In the end, it came down to the final shot as the Mammoth held a one-goal advantage and the ball with 10 seconds left.

The Stealth’s Tyler Digby intercepted Drew Westervelt’s long pass intended to burn the clock and fed Matt Beers inside but he couldn’t catch it cleanly.

Vancouver’s Brett Bucktooth scooped the ball and fired a desperation shot but Ward made the save, one of his 41 total stops on the night.

It was a bitter end to a comeback that fell just short as the Stealth once again got great goaltending from Richards, who stopped 37 of 47 shots in a losing effort.

The Stealth also received some secondary scoring from a couple defensemen, as Matt Beers and Mike Grimes both collected three points each. Beers had two goals to go along with one helper and Grimes had three assists on the night.

John Grant, Jr. led the way for the Mammoth with five points on two goals and three assists, and was named the game’s first star.

For Digby, the NLL rookie of the month for January, led the scoring charge with another strong performance, collecting four points and his third hat trick of the season. He was named the game’s second star.

These two teams will be back in action on Valentine’s Day (Friday Feb. 14) at Colorado’s Pepsi Centre for their fourth and final meeting of the regular season.

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