It was the most entertaining game of the season, but it was also the last game of the year for the Vancouver Stealth.
Needing a victory in the final game of the National Lacrosse League regular season to clinch a post-season berth, the Stealth came up one goal short, falling 14-13 to the Calgary Roughnecks at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday night.
And as has been the case all season, it was the failure to deliver a full 60-minute effort which cost the team, who finished the season at 5-13. Calgary (7-11) claimed the NLL West Division’s final playoff berth.
“Our guys battled hard (but) unfortunately we didn’t get the outcome,” said Stealth coach Dan Perreault.
“The effort was there, you certainly can’t fault the effort.”
The Stealth jumped all over Calgary early, scoring four goals on their first six shots to lead 4-0 five minutes into the game.
They led 7-5 at the half and Ilija Gajic scored a breakaway goal early in the third quarter to extend the lead to three. But after that, the Roughnecks seized control, outscoring Vancouver 7-1 the rest of the period for a 12-9 lead.
Rhys Duch would open the fourth with three consecutive goals — he finished with six — to tie the score at 12, but Calgary scored two of the final three goals for the one-goal victory and playoff berth.
Calgary’s Jeff Shattler, with his fourth of the game, netted the winner with 5:11 to play.
The Stealth had plenty of chances for the equalizer and even had a couple of shots find their way through Calgary goaltender Frankie Scigliano, but no Vancouver player could get to the ball in time.
“It is a game of inches,” Perreault said.
“A couple of our shots hit sticks, the rolled in behind Scigliano, and sat on the line and didn’t go over.”
The Stealth can look back at the third quarter as when the game got away.
The Roughnecks outscored the Stealth 7-2 in that period, while the Stealth won the other three quarters by a score of 11-7.
“That third quarter had been our Achilles heel it seems all year,” said Stealth transition player Tyler Garrison.
“I don’t know why; we will have to clean that up for next year.”
Calgary coach Curt Malawsky said his team was rusty coming off a bye week.
“We would have liked to have been up at the half, but we were coaching to be even or down a little bit,” he said.
“It was a game of runs and we had the last run tonight.”
Malawsky said they knew of the Stealth’s troubles in fourth-quarter rallies all season.
“We knew trailing after the third quarter, they hadn’t won a game all season long,” he said.
“They were 0-11 going in. We mentioned that stat.”
While it was disappointing not to advance to the post-season for a second straight season, Garrison said the team will use this moving forward.
“Every time you lose a game like that, it is a learning experience,” he said.
“We will be back next year and hopefully pick up a few things along the way that will help us through it.”
“Not the result we were looking for, but there was no quit,” said Duch, who finished the season with a career-high 103 points.
“When you are part of a group that doesn’t quit, it speaks for itself. We played right down to the last whistle.”
The loss came on a night where the Stealth had their biggest crowd of the season at the LEC, 4,833 fans.
“It was a fantastic atmosphere, I have never seen this building like that,” Perreault said.
“This is the first one this year where we felt like the fans were into it as much as we were,” Garrison said.
“It was amazing (and) it gives us something to build on moving forward.”
The Stealth finished the season with a record of 5-13, which was second-last in the nine-team NLL. But the team is without its first round draft pick, which they traded prior to the 2014 NLL draft as part of the Johnny Powless/Joel McCready traded prior to the 2014 NLL draft as part of the Johnny Powless/Joel McCready trade.
Gary Ahuja/Langley Times
The Vancouver Stealth had their biggest crowd of the season on May 2 but the fans went home disappointed after the home team lost 14-13 to Calgary in the National Lacrosse League regular season finale.