The Rochester Knighthawks (1-0) were in midseason form on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. They dominated the Philadelphia Wings (0-1) by a score of 22-12 in what was the season opener for both clubs.
The game turned ugly in the final minute when seemingly every player on the floor, including both goalies, dropped the gloves. But the flurry of fights did little to overshadow what was a sharp Rochester team.
The Knighthawks offense showed no rust and looked unstoppable throughout the game, scoring at least four goals in every quarter. Jordan Hall (3 goals, 7 assists) led Rochester with 10 points. Cory Vitarelli (5 goals, 1 assist), Mike Accursi (3 goals, 6 assists) and Cody Jamieson (4 goals, 5 assists) also had huge nights on the score sheet.
While he praised his team’s offensive effort, Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen was excited about his team’s defense as well.
“It was a good game, a good tempo,” Hasen said. “I was really impressed with our group here. We showed up and had a great game defensively. We were excellent for the bulk of it.”
Rochester dominated all aspects of the first quarter, taking advantage of sloppy Philadelphia play. Jordan Hall was the first of six different Knighthawks to light the lamp in the first frame.
“We always talk about ball movement. They’re a great 1-on-1 defense,” Hall said. “We wanted to get in and get out, and keep the ball hot.”
Rochester took advantage of 10 power plays, tallying 4 goals with the man advantage. The penalties on both sides played a major role in the game. Philadelphia reeled off 5 straight goals in the second quarter (2 on the power play) to even the score at 6-6.
The Wings were led by rookie sensation Kevin Crowley (3 goals, 5 assists) who Philadelphia acquired with the #1 overall pick in the NLL Entry Draft. Crowley was unsatisfied but hopeful after the loss.
“It’s disappointing,” he said. “I feel like I talked a big game in all my preseason interviews. I’m disappointed.”
“But it’s not a write off at all,” Crowley added. “It’s important to play your best lacrosse at the end of the year, not the beginning. Sometimes it takes a goal differential like this to highlight what you need to work on.”
After the tying goal by Philadelphia’s Dan Dawson (1 goal, 7 assists), Rochester again seized control. The Knighthawks scored the next 7 goals, essentially putting the game away. Rochester looked in sync all night. Hasen credited the team’s effective practice sessions and his players agreed.
“Guys are getting to practice. We had 8 practices and some scrimmages before the season and it really helped,” Hall said.
Wings head coach and GM Johnny Mouradian was impressed with what he saw from Rochester.
“They’re a good lacrosse club, they keep moving the ball and moving their feet. They go into the dirty zone, and they go on the inside,” Mouradian said.
“That lacrosse club can shoot the ball. They jam up the middle and it opens up the outside. Its kind of the opposite of the way it used to be in this league. They orchestrate their offense really well.”
It’s that type of cohesion that Mouradian recognizes that Philadelphia, a team with a lot of new faces, lacks thus far in 2012.
“There is a lot more potential in that locker room than came out tonight,” he said. “The chemistry in the locker room is there, the chemistry on the floor has got be next.”
In the final minute of the 4th quarter, with the game well in hand for Rochester, Philadelphia’s frustration boiled over. Tom Hajek and David Brock dropped gloves with Rochester’s Bobby Horsey and Kyle Laverty. Minutes later Scott Campbell and Pat McCready engaged Philadelphia’s Brodie Merrill and Paul Dawson. Even goalies Kurtis Wagar and Jake Henhawk got in on the action.
Hasen knows he has a tough group of guys.
“[Philadelphia] is a very big team and very physical team,” he said. “But we’re a team that’s not going to back down. I think we answered the bell well.”
With the teams meeting twice more in the regular season, it should be interesting to see if the bad blood persists.
“We will see these guys a whole bunch,” Jordan Hall said. “Mark your calendar for the next game. I think it’s going to be a strong rivalry.”
The Wings host the Washington Stealth on January 21 at 7pm ET as the Knighthawks return to Rochester to face the Buffalo Bandits at 7:30pm ET.