By Jeremy Pike / NLL.com Correspondent
Photo by Micheline V / Rochester Knighthawks
The Rochester Knighthawks (1-1) defeated the New England Black Wolves (0-1) 15-8 in front 6,256 fans at the Blue Cross Arena Saturday night. The Knighthawks bounced back from a 12-5 loss to open the season thanks to a 7-0 run that started late in the second quarter and continued into the fourth. Rookie Kyle Jackson led all scorers with 11 points (2+9) and played a big role in the win.
“The kid’s working real hard, and he’s taking a pounding out there,” said Rochester head coach Mike Hasen. “It’s a good night for him to get those kind of numbers because he works hard every single shift.”
“It was awesome,” said Jackson. “But at the end of the day, I was just lucky enough that when I passed the ball, my teammates were able to put the ball in the back of the net. The 11 points, it was more on the team than it was on me; right place, right time I guess. Ultimately, it’s nice to see the stat, but it’s better to have the win at the end of the day. That’s the most important thing.”
All in all, the young Knighthawks on offense were a force to be reckoned with. Jackson’s fellow first-round draftee, Josh Currier, had a six-point night and his first career hat trick (3+3), along with second-round pick Dan Lomas’s four-point night (2+2) in his first career game.
“It was exciting,” said Lomas. “It’s tough to put it into words, but I think being part of a win is something that’s more exciting. The atmosphere from last week to this week in the locker room after the game was completely different.”
It was not just the young guns scoring though. Rochester did see a familiar face return to the lineup after missing the first game due to the flu in Stephen Keogh. He left his mark in a big way with six points (3+3).
“He was good,” Hasen said. “It was a spark we needed, especially with a few things not going our way roster-wise right now.”
“He’s got a great shot, so he’s going to pull the defense out a lot,” said Currier. “It’s going to open up space for everyone else. It’s just really nice playing with him, he opens up the floor a lot.”
“He’s unbelievable,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, you can say that the rookies did this, the veterans did that. But having a guy like Keogh out there who is more of an impact player and his presence is known out there, (it) opens the floor for a lot of other guys.”
Even though the final score was skewed heavily in the Knighthawks’ favor, New England led 5-4 at the half after scoring the game’s first two goals. Yet even though they led, it was apparent things were amiss for the Black Wolves, fresh off an appearance in the East Division finals.
“We got some results in the first quarter, but I just didn’t like our game from the start to be honest,” said New England head coach Glenn Clark. “I thought we were waiting for things to happen. Pretty stationary on offense. We weren’t reacting hard enough on ‘D’. You haven’t played at real game speed. We had some decent results in the first half, but overall, I wasn’t happy with our game throughout the whole thing.”
One of the storylines for the Black Wolves coming into their season opener was the addition of new faces. Chad Culp and Jay Thorimbert made their New England debuts Saturday night and made an impact. Culp finished with two points (1+1) while Thorimbert went 13-23 on faceoffs.
“I think they did what was expected,” Clark said. “Jay was strong in the faceoff circle. Chad’s got a lot of energy, plays with an edge. . . Good start for them.”
Things truly went wrong in the third quarter for the Black Wolves. After a flurry of activity but no scoring to start the quarter, New England took a substitution penalty and it took all of 13 seconds of power play time for rookie Kyle Jackson to tie the game. The Knighthawks scored three more times in the quarter while goalie Matt Vinc only had to make six saves.
The implosion was complete in the fourth as New England was assessed six penalties including three five-minute majors and a 10-minute game misconduct (assessed on Kevin Crowley). All in all, the Knighthawks finished the night 9-of-10 on the power play.
“That’s an awful lot,” Hasen said. “They were good tonight. They were picking their shots and they weren’t wasting many opportunities. 9-for-10 on the power, that’s big. That’s huge.”
“I think it’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Clark said. “We weren’t very happy with a lot of the early calls, and then the guys are getting frustrated. You’re making a team play a whole quarter 5-on-3 and that’s pretty difficult. Frustration sets in, it’s difficult to play that way. They basically took the game away from us. We got calls that are questionable early, frustration sets in, snowballs from there.”
“I think the penalties were just the icing on the cake,” said New England defenseman Scott Self. “We were just flat in the second half, I felt like. We were getting frustrated because they were just outworking us. We took a couple of bad penalties and they got up five. Then just like the roof caved in on us. We were really frustrated, and we just kept taking more penalties. We’ve got to come with more of a workman-like attitude.”
Lost in the scoring frenzy was the performance of New England’s goalie, Evan Kirk. While all 15 goals were against him, he did face 60 shots on the evening while his team was on the penalty kill 10 times before being pulled for Doug Jamieson for the final 1:52.
“He was good,” Clark said. “He got hurt down the stretch. We thought we could weather the storm and keep him in there and battle back. We pulled him at the end there, he was just getting exhausted.”
The game also marked Self’s return to the Blue Cross Arena after spending the last four seasons as a member of the Knighthawks.
“Definitely different being on this end of the hallway,” Self said. “I was trying not to think about it too much, but yeah, I mean it’s there in the back of your head, right? I played here for a few years, went on a good run, and really enjoyed my time here. Wanted to have a better showing than we did hear tonight.”
New England travels to Colorado to take on the Mammoth on Saturday January 14 at 9:00 pm ET. Rochester gets a week off before heading west to take on the Saskatchewan Rush on Saturday January 21 at 8:30 pm ET.