It may have been the first game of the season, but Vancouver Stealth coach Jamie Batley wasn’t making any excuses for his team.
“Our offence has to look themselves in the mirror and wonder why they shot from the outside all night when we told them you can’t do that against (Dillon) Ward,” Batley said, following his team’s season opening 15-8 loss Friday night at the Langley Events Centre.
“He’s a big goalie, he is a great angle goalie, he is one of the best in the world. We didn’t make him move.”
Ward is the reigning National Lacrosse League goaltender of the year.
And after allowing five goals on 15 shots in the first quarter, Ward settled into a groove and stopped 31 of 34 the rest of the way.
The Stealth were actually up 5-3 late in the first quarter but Colorado’s Chris Wardle and Tim Edwards scored eight seconds apart in the final 30 seconds to tie the game after 15 minutes.
Neither team scored for the first eight minutes and change in the second quarter before the Mammoth got consecutive short-handed goals form Jordan Gilles and Joey Cupido for a lead they would not relinquish.
“It just went south from there. We decided not to try and penetrate the offence,” Batley said.
The Stealth were blanked for the entire quarter and found themselves down 9-6 at the break. They did manage two goals in the third quarter but surrendered another six.
Goaltender Tye Belanger — who led the league with a .796 save percentage in 2017 — was yanked after the fifth goal of the period. He finished with 23 saves on 37 shots.
Brodie MacDonald allowed one goal on seven shots the rest of the way.
“I am not going to blame it all on our goaltending but 62 per cent (save percentage) is not going to win you anything, it is going to get you last place,” Batley said.
“(And) offensively, only thee of the seven (forwards) scored — we are not going to win when we do that.”
Joel McCready and Logan Schuss each had two goals up front while Evan Messenger had one.
The duo of Corey Small and Rhys Duch — who combined to lead the Stealth with 84 goals and 205 points last season — finished with zero goals on 19 shots and three assists total.
Justin Salt, Brandon Goodwin and Travis Cornwall had the other Vancouver goals.
Colorado was led by four goals and five points from Wardle and big nights from both Ryan Benesch (two goals, eight points) and Jeremy Noble (two goals, five points).
Ryan Lee (two goals, two assists), Eli McLaughlin (one goal, three assists) and Bryce Sweeting (one goal) also found the back of the net.
The Stealth were also hurt by the loss of their captain Matt Beers in the second quarter to what appeared to be an upper body or head injury.
Losing any player is crucial but Batley said it wasn’t the reason they lost.
The coach did say that he believes Beers is fine and holding him out for the rest of the game was more precautionary on the doctors’ part.
The Stealth will look for their first win of the season when they travel to Calgary for a game on Dec. 15.