There is nothing quite like the emotional see-saw ride that is sudden death overtime in the National Lacrosse League. Teams trade possessions with the difference between a thrilling win and a critical loss hanging on the result of scoring chance after scoring chance.
Perhaps there is only one thing that tops it: playoff overtime.
When Derek Malawsky's 30 footer 2:33 into the first overtime somehow found a path through Vancouver goaltender Dwight Maetche the Rochester Knighthawks earned a scintillating 11-10 win over the Ravens, and officially blazed a trail to Albany for a NLL semifinal match-up Saturday, April 6 with
the No. 1 seeded Attack.
Malawsky's high shot to the top right corner was stopped by Maetche, but the ball became tangled in his equipment. Not knowing where the ball was, Maetche started to back peddle towards his goal just as the ball fell out behind him. The Ravens' net minder kicked the ball back into the net, putting a nightmarish conclusion on an otherwise stellar performance.
With the win, the Knighthawks continue their impressive home unbeaten streak, which now stands at 15 games dating back to last season. Rochester is now 2-0 all time in the playoffs at the Blue Cross Arena.
But it wasn't easy.
A heartbroken Ravens squad fought valiantly against the Goliath-like Knighthawks, they too had their chances to move on to Albany.
With the crowd of 8,266 on their feet chanting for defense, the Ravens confidently moved the ball around the Rochester zone in the final possession of regulation. Vancouver ran the clock until a few seconds remained, then sent a pass across the crease to forward Peter Morgan. Morgan had the pass knocked away, put picked up the loose ball, and fired just wide of the net as the clock expired.
Maetche, who was the first Raven in line for the post game handshakes, held Vancouver in the game until the final overtime possession. In fact, overtime may not have happened were it not for the 43-year old goaltender's heroics
late in regulation.
With 1:30 left in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 10, Maetche stopped three Knighthawks' shots. Then on the next Rochester possession, he made back to back saves on John Grant and Duane Jacobs, setting up Vancouver's opportunity to win on the final possession of the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 49 stops, three in overtime.
Not to be outdone was Rochester goaltender Pat O'Toole. The veteran net minder made two saves in overtime, and stopped Ravens' forward Matt Dwane on a breakaway with just over two minutes left in regulation. O'Toole finished with 39 saves.
The game was a closely contested affair throughout. Rochester opened the game with a three-goal run in the first quarter. The Ravens countered with a three-goal run of their own in the second, and neither team scored more than two in a row for the rest of the night. All in all, there were five lead changes and eight ties.
Cory Bomberry earned game MVP honors, scoring a hat trick and adding one assist for a four point night.
The Ravens managed to hold Grant, one of the league's most explosive players, to just one goal through the first three quarters. He, however, would tally two more during the up and down fourth quarter and finished the game with four points (3G, 1A).
The game-winning goal-scorer, Malawsky, led the Knighthawks in points with five (2G, 3A).
Vancouver's Chris Gill led all scorers with seven points (5G, 2A). Teammate Jamey Bowen was next, tallying five points (1G, 4A).
Maetche, who left the game momentarily in the first quarter after being struck in the mask with a hard Rochester shot, made 49 saves. Backup goaltender Scott Wylie came in for Maetche, allowed two goals, and made one save in 6:26 of action.
Rochester's semifinal game against the Attack will take place at Albany's Pepsi Arena, and is scheduled to start at 7:30. The Knighthawks won both regular season meetings against the Attack, accounting for Albany's only two losses.