Nearly one-third of the NLL game in 2013 were decided by just one goal, including the 2013 NLL Championship Game where the Rochester Knighthawks defended their title with an 11-10 win over the Washington Stealth. (Photo: Dan Brodie)
The 2013 National Lacrosse League season ended the way it began – with a one-goal game – as the Rochester Knighthawks became the first NLL team in a decade to hoist the Champion’s Cup in back-to-back years with a riveting 11-10 road win over the Washington Stealth in the 2013 NLL Championship Game presented by Reebok before a sold-out Langley Events Centre in British Columbia on Saturday.
Knighthawks forward Cody Jamieson won the Reebok Championship Game MVP trophy for the second-straight year after recording a hat trick and six points (3+3). He became the sixth player in history to win multiple title game MVPs and just the second to win them in back-to-back years.
Jamieson, who missed the second half of the Division Semifinal with an ankle injury but impressively returned for the East Division Final, played through pain again this weekend.
“It’s hurting right now,” Jamieson told NLL.com. “At the start of the game in warmups, it was hurting. Once you get into the game, adrenaline just takes over and you forget about it.”
The Stealth made their third title game appearance in the last four years and their "season of redemption" after missing the playoffs last year with a 4-12 record came up just one goal short.
"In any sport the only team that can say their season was a success is the team that wins the championship," Stealth forward Rhys Duch told LaxMagazine.com. "But I don't think our season not being a success should be considered a failure."
Down by a goal, Washington raced up the floor with less than 10 seconds left before Duch, who led the NLL with 45 goals this season, got off a desperation sub-shot with two seconds left but Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc, the 2013 NLL Goaltender of the Year, made the save to seal the victory.
“At the end of the game I just wanted to be big,” said Vinc told the Rochester D&C. “On the first shot I did that, and the other one I reacted low and I was fortunate enough to read it right.“I think it was a fun way to end the year. I can’t say enough about our defense in the second half. It wasn’t the prettiest one, but we’ll take it.”
Just as Jamieson was injured coming in, Duch was limited by a lower-body injury as well but still managed a hat trick against the stingy Knighthawks defense.
"In all fairness to Rhys, you guys have to know of something," Stealth head coach Chris Hall told the Everett Herald. "It's not an excuse, it's not anything like that, but for Rhys to be able to play in this game tonight was a monumental effort. On Monday, he had 10 percent flexion in his leg. He had a huge, deep charley horse in his left quad and right up to game time we didn't know how mobile he was going to be or if he was even going to be able to play."
Knighthawks forward and 12-year NLL veteran Dan Dawson, one of the most prolific scorers in the league's postseason history, won his first title in his fourth try.
"Finally," Dawson told The Canadian Press. "One word describes it -- finally. It's a load off my shoulders."
Rochester defenseman Paul Dawson, Dan's brother who was also traded to the Knighthawks during the offseason, also won his first title after seven seasons.
"It makes it a little bit extra special whenever you can win something with your own blood," Dawson said. "To win this with him is a little bit extra special. But as far as I'm concerned I've got 25 brothers in that room."
The thrilling finish capped off a season where scoring runs, last-second heroics, historic comebacks and amazing plays have almost become the norm.
"I think from a league perspective, you couldn't ask for a more exciting game," Hall told the Herald. "I think it was two great teams, two great goaltenders and a great lacrosse game — a bounce here and there and we didn't get it in the end. The lacrosse gods were on the other side of the floor tonight."
Sometimes it's up to the lacrosse gods to determine the winner and loser. After all, 25 of the 79 NLL games (32%) in 2013 were decided by just one goal, including the title game, which marked the 12th NLL Championship Game in 27 seasons to be decided by the slimmest of margins.
"It was a great atmosphere," Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen told The Province about the Champion's Cup Final being held in the Vancouver area. "It was loud the entire game. It would be dynamite to come here once a year, if not more."
The fact that one-third of the games were decided by a goal in a sport where teams average over 12 goals per game shows that the NLL is one of, if not the most, competitive leagues in all of sports.
The regular season was anything but and the playoffs lived up to the expectations that anything can happen. It's what makes the sport so incredible to watch. With an two extra games added to the schedule in 2014, we can all look forward to seeing that much more action in a league with the world's best lacrosse players.