All eyes were on Rochester to see how former Knighthawk legend John Grant Jr. would perform inside his old arena against his old team. The National Lacrosse League’s top point scorer did not disappoint, leading the Colorado Mammoth over the Knighthawks 16-12.
Grant played his first game inside the Blue Cross Arena as a member of the visiting team. This was a game he had been looking forward to all season long, and there were definitely some added emotions.
“I was too fired up and I think my play showed it. I was forcing it a lot out there. I’m on a great team and those guys carried me to this victory. I’m glad to get a win here because it would have been one miserable experience had I lost,” said Grant.
The crowd gave Grant a standing ovation when he was announced as a starter. He also took the microphone after the game to address his fans.
“I knew that today was a special day for him. We just talked about him staying in the moment. Just enjoy it and just play our game,” said Colorado head coach Bob Hamley.
Grant has scored at least three goals in every game so far this season, and he did the same thing against Rochester (5-7). Both he and Jamie Lincoln finished with a hat trick for the Mammoth (10-3). However, when he wasn’t scoring, he was setting up goals for his teammates. The former league MVP dished out eight assists, one short of his season high.
“Whenever Junior is on any team you always got to watch out and make sure you are aware of where he is on the floor,” said Rochester head coach Mike Hasen, a former teammate of Grant. “Tonight, he showed he’s still dynamite.”
While Grant savored another victory, Rochester goaltender Matt Vinc was once again disappointed with the way the Knighthawks’ defense played. After Johnny Powless tied the game at 12-12 in the fourth quarter, the Mammoth closed the game with four consecutive goals.
“I think it’s just lack of concentration. We get maybe a little bit complacent. We feel that were at the top of our game. Then, all of a sudden, one bounce doesn’t go our way. Then, all of a sudden, they get two their way,” said Vinc.
“I think we just got to play a little more consistently, pay attention to our game plan and not deviate from it. I think when were successful we adhere to the principles that our coaches put in place and I think we got to that more consistently and on a regular basis.”
The reigning NLL Goaltender of the Year made 28 saves on 44 shots. His frustration was evident when he gave Lincoln a shove after his fourth-quarter goal. Vinc also earned a two minute roughing penalty with 53 seconds left in the game.
The Mammoth never trailed, although the Knighthawks battled back to tie the game in the first and fourth quarters. With only 1.3 seconds left in the opening quarter, Stephen Keogh tied the game at 4-4. Lincoln scored twice as part of a three-goal run for Colorado, which gave them a 7-5 advantage at halftime.
Grant netted his first of the game on the power play at 4:53 in the third quarter to give his team a four-goal cushion at 10-6.
Jamieson, who finished with a team-high seven points (five goals, two assists), responded for the Knighthawks at the start of the fourth. He scored consecutive goals 36 seconds apart to cut the deficit to one before Powless’s game-tying goal.
After Rochester tied the game, Hamley pulled goaltender Chris Levis for Tye Belanger. Belanger made two saves in just over two minutes of playing time to kill the Knighthawks’ momentum. Levis returned to finish the game, rejecting 30 of 42 shots faced.
“We battled hard. We did a good job in the fourth quarter there coming back, pulling ourselves out of that hole. But it wasn’t enough. Have to get to work and come back next week,” said Jamieson.
The 11-point game for Grant raised his season points total to 98, putting him only 17 points behind the all-time single season record of 115 set by John Tavares in 2001.
The Knighthawks take on the Calgary Roughnecks in a tough home-and-home series starting at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday, April 6 at 9 p.m. ET. The Mammoth have next week off before hosting the Toronto Rock on Saturday, April 14 at 9 p.m. ET.