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Stealth shock Roughnecks in West final

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The Canadian Press
5/8/2011 12:36:33 AM
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CALGARY - Jeff Zywicki is healthy again, and he's helped take the Washington Stealth to the National Lacrosse League final.

Zywicki had three goals and three assists Saturday night as Washington marched into Calgary and upset the top-ranked Roughnecks 10-8 in the West final.

In a rematch of last year's final, the defending champion Stealth will play the Rock in Toronto next Sunday in the Champion's Cup. Washington will be attempting to become the first team to win consecutive NLL titles since Toronto did so in 2002 and 2003.

Toronto won the East title Saturday beating the Buffalo Bandits 12-11.

"We managed to sneak it on them last year and now we have the rematch and it's in their barn so really, it couldn't be a better story," said Stealth coach Chris Hall.

After only playing three games during the regular season, Zywicki returned last weekend scoring two goals and two assists in the Stealth's 14-8 quarter-final victory in Minnesota.

Against the Roughnecks, the 30-year-old was instrumental as the Stealth scored three goals in a 76-second surge in the second quarter to take a lead they would not relinquish.

"He's incredibly intelligent, he has a wonderful lacrosse mind and having him out there really helps our offence," Hall said. "He's a calming influence but he also understands where the weaknesses are on the defence and he's very good at being a coach on the floor."

It was a pretty individual effort by Zywicki that ignited the flurry at 6:50 of the second. After hitting the side of the net on his initial shot, Zywicki retrieved the ball from the netting, leaped out and tucked a shot inside the near goal post past unsuspecting goaltender Mike Poulin.

"A dunk from behind the net, those always fire everybody up because they're unexpected, exciting plays," Zywicki said. "It fired me up personally and got us going, then I got another one, and then we got another quick one and that sort of turned it around and got the momentum going for us."

On the go-ahead goal, Zywicki made a perfect feed to former Roughneck Lewis Ratcliff streaking in the far side. After taking in the pass, Ratcliff leaped high in the air before acrobatically tucking a shot over Poulin's shoulder giving Washington a 4-3 lead.

"I had a good look but Lewis had a better look so I hit him, he buried it, and it was a really nice goal too. We kept going from there," said Zywicki.

Ratcliff also had three goals for Washington while adding four assists. Paul Rabil, Rhys Duch, Luke Wiles and Cliff Smith also scored for Washington.

Calgary got two goals from Daryl Veltman and one apiece from Kaleb Toth, Geoff Snider, Scott Ranger, Curtis Dickson, Dane Dobbie and Jeff Shattler.

"We beat ourselves," Toth said. "We turned over the ball too much, got outhustled to loose balls, but that happens in lacrosse games."

The knock-out punch came in the third quarter on another quick strike by the visitors. This time, it was three goals in 69 seconds as the Stealth opened up a 7-3 lead.

Ratcliff scored the first goal at 3:23. Wiles followed 35 seconds later and Zywicki deflated the energy of the Scotiabank Saddledome crowd of 10,125 on a bad goal from the side that dribbled under Poulin's glove.

Exactly 30 minutes after Calgary's last goal, the Roughnecks finally solved Tyler Richards getting back on the score sheet at 10:49 of the third on Veltman's second of the night. But Rabil restored Washington's four-goal cushion 27 seconds later.

"Our five-on-five defence was absolutely superb," Hall said. "We know that if we're going to repeat, we have to grind it out defensively and we can't give up easy goals. The first four goals they got were all power play. They didn't score a five-on-five goal in the first half."

Calgary had a chance to build up a big lead.

Veltman's power play goal at 10:49 of the first quarter gave the Roughnecks a 3-0 with lead with over three minutes remaining on Eric Martin's major penalty for an illegal cross-check.

However, Washington responded 34 seconds later with Duch's short-handed goal.

"It looked they wanted it a bit more than us, unfortunately," said Ranger. "It wasn't from a lack of trying but they were executing a little bit better than us tonight."

Final shots were 53-52 in favour of Washington.

Notes: Washington was 2-for-7 on the man advantage while Calgary was 4-for-8... The Rock won 13-12 over Washington on April 1 in their only meeting during the regular season... The final will feature two former Roughneck head coaches going head-to-head. Hall coached Calgary for six seasons winning the championship in 2004 while Toronto's Troy Cordingley was the head coach of the Roughnecks for two years, winning Calgary's other championship in 2009... . Zywicki has 50 points (31 goals, 19 assists) in 10 career post-season games... It was the first NLL meeting between brother Bob Snider of Washington and older brother Geoff.

Jeff Zywicki (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

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(Photo: Larry Palumbo)
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