Mike Accursi (44) scored two goals early in the fourth quarter to snap a 7-all tie and push Rochester to an 11-8 win over Philadelphia on Friday night. (Photo Credit: Larry Palumbo)
The Rochester Knighthawks opened the second half of the season on positive note on Saturday night in Philadelphia, beating the Wings 11-8.
It was Rochester’s second win this season at the Wells Fargo Center after a 22-12 thumping in the season opener.
“Huge win,” Knighthawks All-Star Cody Jamieson said of the latest victory. “It’s the first game of the second half for us. It’s important to string some wins together and pick up some steam headed into the playoffs.”
The game was tight throughout. With the score knotted 7-all headed into the fourth quarter, Rochester forward Mike Accursi scored consecutive goals to seal it. The Wings had the momentum early in the second half, but Rochester kept its cool, and took it back.
“We just kept going. We didn’t panic,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “They’re a good team - we know they’re going to go on their runs. We limited it, we stopped it, and then we got back to our game.”
Jamieson said it was something the team went into the game concentrating on.
“Every time they scored, we came back with a goal,” he said. “We didn’t let them go on too many runs. That’s been a problem for us. We said on the bench that we wanted to get a goal every time they did.”
Jamieson and Accursi led the way for Rochester (4-5), combining for five goals and eight assists. Standout rookie Stephen Keogh added a pair of goals and two assists in the win.
Knighthawks goaltender Matt Vinc starred early and often, making 44 stops on 51 shots. He held the Wings to four goals in the second half and only one in the decisive fourth quarter.
“[Vinc} played like he should be playing. He was seeing the ball well and made a lot of big saves for us in the fourth quarter. He came up big,” Hasen said.
Jamieson said Vinc’s play enables them to be a little more aggressive on offense.
“The confidence he gives us is huge,” he said. “If we throw a bad pass – it’s in the back of your head that it could be my fault – but he bails us out left and right. A lot of our team success is because of him.”
The Knighthawks looked strong early on, sprinting to a 4-1 lead in the first quarter. Jamieson and Keogh both lit the lamp twice in the opening half.
Philadelphia goalie Brandon Miller then seemed to settle in, enabling the Wings to cut into the lead. Miller made several acrobatic saves, evoking memories of former Wings goaltender Dallas Eliuk.
Eliuk’s jersey number 35 was retired and raised to the Wells Fargo Center rafters before the game.
Vinc was unbeatable early, but the Wings were finally able to find some holes in the second quarter. They went into halftime trailing 5-4.
Philadelphia (4-4) came out of the locker room hot. Following a Brendan Mundorf goal in the opening minute, Dan Dawson added a highlight reel tally of his own to give the Wings their first lead of the night.
Dawson caught a pass in front of Vinc, where he was immediately harassed by a Rochester defender. Dawson took one step to his right, and flipped a one-handed behind-the-back shot between Vinc’s legs.
The teams traded goals from there, until Accursi scored early in the final quarter to give the Knighthawks an 8-7 lead. That would prove to be the game-winner.
While acknowledging that Vinc played well, the Wings also thought they gave the Rochester goalie plenty of help with their poor shooting.
“I think we were shooting on him and hoping it would go in,” Dawson said. “Unfortunately, that’s not our game prep. Our game prep is to analyze game film and understand where shots should go.”
Contrasting the teams, Rochester seems to effectively work as a unit while the talented Wings, at times, can stray into the bad habits of one-on-one lacrosse.
“We just weren’t on the same page. When we get in tight situations, we sometimes tend to try to do too much. We forget about playing five-man offense,” Dawson said.
The win moves the Knighthawks to 4-5 - only a half game behind Philadelphia and Toronto for the division lead. Next week, the Knighthawks return home to host struggling Buffalo on Saturday afternoon.
The Wings, losers of two in a row, will look to bounce back in Toronto where they face the Rock on Friday night in a matchup of .500 teams tied for the lead in the East Division.
Dawson intends to make rebounding a priority.
“A true test of character is when you’re down in the dumps and how you respond,” he said. “I think this is really going to be a turning point, how we respond to losing two games in a row.”