The Knighthawks were not willing to go quietly into the cooling Rochester night, forcing a Game Three with a 13-7 victory over the Saskatchewan Rush in front of 9,174 fans at the Blue Cross Arena. With the Knighthawks needing a win to stay alive, there was no surprise from the visitors about the host’s effort.
“We knew they’d be desperate, knew they’d play hard,” said Saskatchewan head coach Derek Keenan. “They’re a hard team to beat here. I think they’ve won 15 in a row playoff games here.”
With the Rush needing one more victory to take home the new National Lacrosse League Cup, they got off to the right start. Robert Church, Game One’s hero, looked like he picked up right where left off, scoring 50 seconds into the first quarter. Jeff Shattler picked up his first goal of the night less than three minutes later to give Saskatchewan a 2-0 lead.
“It was still early, there was really nothing going through my head,” said Shattler. “I knew that they’re a good team, and it’s a game of runs. They had a good run. We ran into a hot goalie tonight, he’s a great goalie. Maybe we were just a little bit too confident coming into tonight.”
Despite taking the lead, the Rush’s head coach was not happy with his team’s performance early.
“We were sloppy at times, I thought early especially,” Coach Keenan said. “I thought we were much better in the second half, we just couldn’t solve Vinc.”
Then Josh Currier got Rochester on the board with his first of four goals on the night.
“It’s just kind of been the way the team’s been all year,” Currier said. “Someone different steps up each game, and luckily I got the chance tonight. Overall, it was a big team win, so that’s what I’m happy about.”
It kicked off a three-goal run that gave them the lead before Rush forward Ryan Keenan tied the game with only three seconds left in the first. Then they had an opportunity to retake the lead on the power play when Jake Withers committed a delay of game penalty on the ensuing faceoff.
Yet instead of Rochester giving up the tying goal, fellow rookie Austin Shanks bailed out Withers and scored a shorthanded goal only 26 seconds into the second quarter. They outscored the Rush 10-4 over the final three quarters, due in large part to Vinc’s performance. He faced 54 shots and stopped 47 of them, routinely bringing the fans in attendance to their feet and leaving shooters dumbfounded.
“He stood on his head all game,” said Saskatchewan forward Mike Messenger. “Even those first two were kind of, got lucky maybe or something? But he had an outstanding game all game long, and the defense in front of him was outstanding too. So it’s kind of hard to put balls in the net when those two combined are working well.”
“It’s just the results of trying to make one save at a time,” Vinc said.
Only two Saskatchewan players had multi-goal nights. Keenan scored twice and Shattler finished with a hat trick. They were also the only two goal scorers in the fourth for the Rush.
All that to set up the deciding Game Three in Saskatchewan on Saturday June 9th at 9:30pm ET. Saskatchewan already has a clear of idea what needs to happen to secure the Cup.
“We’ll have to have a better plan on him,” Coach Keenan said about Vinc. “Last week we got 16, so it’s not like it’s impossible, but he was good. I don’t think we executed our shooting plan very well and we’ve got to back at it.”
Three stars as voted by the media:
- Matt Vinc
- Josh Currier
- Graeme Hossack