CALGARY -- Held in check for three quarters, Washington Stealth sniper Rhys Duch came through when it mattered most on Saturday.
The league's top goal-scorer netted two goals in the final 12 minutes, including the game-winner, as the Washington Stealth earned its third trip to the NLL Championship game in the last four years with a thrilling 14-13 victory over the Calgary Roughnecks in the West Division final.
Washington scored first and never trailed, although it was far from easy. Calgary fought back to tie the game at 2-2, 8-8, and then tied it up three more times in a frantic back-and-forth final quarter.
"High stress, high pressure situations, but everybody on both teams are a bunch of competitors and that's what that game was, competitive all the way through," said Duch, who had 45 goals in the regular season and four more last week in Washington's 12-11 come-from-behind victory over Edmonton in the West semi-final.
Washington took an 11-10 lead to the fourth quarter only to see Calgary tie it. They took the lead again at 12-11 and one more time at 13-12 only to have the Roughnecks battle back each time and even it. The goal that would be the game winner came at 8:06. Duch cut to the middle of the floor and whipped a shot past goaltender Mike Poulin.
"They were definitely taking the shots away from me early," said Duch, who also had four assists. "They were bringing double coverage and that's the kind of game where you need to react and become a bit of a feeder, so that's the role I decided to play tonight. Then, at the end of the game, the coaches put it on my stick and gave me the opportunity."
Calgary had chances over the final seven minutes but could not solve Tyler Richards.
"We battled back and battled back and the offence would do a great job in the trenches and then they'd score right away," said Roughnecks captain Andrew McBride. "Once we tied it, we never seemed to be able to have those couple of good defensive shifts and I thought that was the issue."
Looking for its second Champion's Cup, Washington will play host to the Rochester Knighthawks in the NLL championship game next Saturday. Earlier on Saturday, Rochester beat Minnesota 12-10 in the East final.
Athan Iannucci also had three goals for Washington. Justin Salt and Brett Bucktooth each scored twice while Tim Henderson, Cliff Smith, Lewis Ratcliff and Dean Hill also scored.
Leading the way for Calgary was Curtis Dickson, who set a franchise record with seven goals -- all of them in the second half. Dane Dobbie had three goals while Shawn Evans, Joe Resetarits and Scott Ranger scored one each.
"I'd trade all those goals to play next weekend. It's going to be a tough one to get over," said Dickson. "From the start of the year, our main goal was to win that championship and we've been saying that all year and anything short of it is going to be a disappointment in our eyes, especially right now."
It's the third year in a row Calgary has been eliminated from the playoffs in its home building.
"You don't win and this season is a waste, straight up," said rookie Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky. "I've been around long enough, you don't win, it's a failure, simple as that. All the hard work went down the tube. I was proud of my guys. They battled hard, but the end result is that we didn't get the job done. It stings and hurts. It's going to be a long, long time before these guys get over it, but I'd go to battle with those guys any time."
Washington opened the third quarter up 8-5 and quickly extended the lead to five on Henderson's first ever NLL goal in the opening minute and then a power-play goal from Hill.
That's when Dickson took the game over and turned in one of the more sterling 30 minutes of lacrosse ever played.
Facing its biggest deficit of the game, Calgary responded with three straight goals of its own in less than three minutes -- all of them by Dickson.
"We got some separation on them at the start of the second half but we couldn't do anything with Dickson, he was unbelievable, we couldn't stop him," said Hall. "Every time we got space, he seemed to answer for them."
It was also Dickson that would tie it all three times in the fourth quarter -- the latter being a spectacular diving wrap-around goal from behind the net that sent the raucous Saddledome crowd of 9,583 into a frenzy.
"They might have the most potent offence in the league and maybe the most pure goal scorer in Curtis Dickson who had a fantastic game," said Richards, who was perfect in the first quarter as Washington took a 2-0 lead despite being outshot 15-9.
Notes: Calgary outshot Washington 52-43.... The home team has won the Champions Cup the last five yearsa Washington's only championship came in 2010. They lost in the final in 2011a Calgary has won 20 of 33 regular season meetings with Washington and they've split four playoff encountersa The game featured battle of brothers. Calgary's Geoff Snider was up against younger brother Bob. The two took the opening face-off.