Rochester won all three matchups with Philadelphia this season. The Knighthawks won't have to wait long to try to extend that streak.
Rochester got a career-high four goals from Stephen Keogh in Saturday night’s 9-7 win over the Wings.
The Knighthawks (7-9) and Wings (7-9) will meet in an Eastern Division Semifinal at 7:30 p.m. ET Friday night at the Blue Cross Arena.
“It’s one we needed, especially here at home. It gives us a little bit of confidence I guess for Friday,” said Rochester head coach Mike Hasen after Saturday’s home win.
Even though the Knighthawks won all three meetings this year by a 42-29 margin, Hasen knows that now means nothing.
“Playoffs is a total different animal,” he said. “We like to think we’re familiar with them, but we know whoever’s going to be hot that night is going to pull it out, so we just got to make sure we’re focused and we’re ready to play Friday.”
Keogh, the second overall pick in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft behind Philadelphia’s Kevin Crowley, also had two assists to tie a season high with six points. Prior to the game, Keogh was given the team’s Community Service Award along with Joe Walters and Joel White.
“It was my teammates getting me open, but then I’ve also been working on my shot, changing it up a little bit. I was just shooting and they were falling for me tonight. It’s a big win for us,” said Keogh.
“He was moving his feet very well. He buried his opportunities on the (power play) and five-on-five he got a couple of big goals for us,” Hasen said about Keogh, who wrapped up his first pro indoor season with 58 points (26 goals, 32 assists).
Although the Wings lost their fifth straight, they felt good about their latest performance. Head coach and general manager Johnny Mouradian was pleased with the way his defense played, and hopes to see the same effort from the back end next week.
“We played very well. (Goaltender Brandon) Miller played extremely well. Man-down did a nice job on their power play. We struggled scoring some goals, but we held a good team to nine, so we’re very proud of that,” said Mouradian. “We felt good with our effort. We felt really good with our desire to win and our aggressiveness.”
Philadelphia limited Rochester to only three goals on seven power-play opportunities. It also prevented Cody Jamieson from finding the back of the net as he managed four assists.
“I thought tonight was a great game, both sides. I think we got back to a little more of Wings’ defensive lacrosse,” said Chris Schiller, who began the season with Rochester before being released on March 10.
He is one of many former Knighthawks who played their first game at the Blue Cross Arena as a member of the visiting team in 2012.
“It was different. It’s always different going in the visiting locker room here. It was an emotional experience. We didn’t come out on top. Hopefully next week we can change that,” said Schiller.
The Knighthawks only trailed once throughout the entire game. Brendan Mundorf opened the second quarter with a power play goal to give the Wings a 3-2 lead. Rochester then scored two straight from Keogh and fellow rookie Johnny Powless to finish the half.
“Some bounces weren’t going our way. (Matt Vinc) had a great game in net, so a lot of shots weren’t dropping. We were getting good shots. Their defense does a good job of sort of limiting the inside shots, so they were mid-range shots we were getting. They just weren’t falling tonight, bottom line,” said Mundorf, who scored four of the Wings’ seven goals. He also added three assists for a game-high seven points.
A three-goal run to start the fourth quarter gave Rochester its biggest lead, 9-5. Walters, a Rochester native, scored his only goal of the game at 6:46 in the fourth to give the Knighthawks the four-goal cushion.
“Obviously, we haven’t won anything yet. We play Philly next week. They’ll be hungry to come in here and try to knock us off. We’re going to prepare hard this week,” said Walters.
It’s safe to say both teams are going to throw out Saturday’s outcome as they prepare for the first round of the playoffs. Although the Knighthawks have yet to lose to Philadelphia this season, team captain Pat McCready knows they cannot overlook the Wings.
“Basically, those three wins go out the window. We just start planning for the game next week. Its playoffs, so it’s a new season. We just got to get to work and prepare for next week,” said McCready. “It’s one game and you’re out. If you have one bad shift your season can end.”
Philadelphia, on the other hand, is confident they can finally overcome a team they haven’t been able to all season.
“If we can duplicate our effort and our attitude coming into the game, just put a couple more balls in the net, play physical, I think we’ll be ok,” said Mundorf.