The Rochester Knighthawks will play at least one more game this year.
The Knighthawks eliminated the Philadelphia Wings from the 2012 National Lacrosse League playoffs, holding on for a 14-13 on Friday night in an East Divisional Semifinal.
Playing their first home playoff game since beating Buffalo 14-13 on April 27, 2007, the Knighthawks advanced to the East Divisional Final and will travel to face Toronto at 7 p.m. next Saturday night in a game to be aired live on CBS Sports Network.
“It was a great game out there tonight. They made a late push at the end. Good for them, but we held on. Now we’re in Week 2 (of the playoffs),” said Knighthawks’ captain Pat McCready.
The victory marked the first time the Knighthawks (8-9) have defeated the same opponent four times in a single season. It is also the 10th straight win over Philadelphia (7-10) dating back to the 2009 season.
“You just can’t put your finger on it. It’s just one of those things. We had a game plan again this week and we stuck to it and didn’t vary from it very much and it worked out,” head coach Mike Hasen said about his team’s success against Philadelphia.
The Wings came on strong in the fourth quarter with their season on the line. They outscored the Knighthawks 7-2 in the final 15 minutes, with five goals in the last 3:23. Rookie of the Year runner-up Kevin Crowley, who scored two of his four goals in the fourth quarter, had one final shot to force overtime, but was denied by Rochester goaltender Matt Vinc with only four seconds remaining.
“We played with an extreme sense of urgency that we needed to play with. That’s the way our lacrosse club has to play every game, every quarter,” said Philadelphia head coach and general manager Johnny Mouradian.
“We out loose-balled them, we out faced-off them, held their power play 0-for-3. Once again, statistically, we can’t close the door and get the win that we need too.”
Defenseman Ryan Cousins netted the game-winning goal with 3:04 to play in the game. It was his third career playoff goal and first since the 2007 playoffs.
Joe Walters helped Rochester extend a one-goal halftime lead to a 12-6 advantage in the third quarter. The Knighthawks went on a five-goal run to start the second half. Walters’ first goal was a pass intended for Johnny Powless, but instead beat Philadelphia goaltender Brandon Miller.
“I’m going to say that was intentional. Johnny Powless made a great slip to the goal. I tried to feed it to him and it just missed his stick and just went in the net. It’s just one of those lucky plays,” said Walters, who finished with a career-high six points (two goals, four assists).
The Knighthawks improved to 4-0 in home games this season when Walters, a Rochester native, is in the lineup.
Stephen Keogh also scored on an errant pass attempt in the second quarter. He tried to feed Mike Accursi in front of the net, but the mishandled pass rolled by Miller to put the Knighthawks up 5-4.
“As far as my game went, I felt good. I just lost a couple of balls, some key ones that are going to make for a long summer,” said Miller, who made 33 saves on 47 shots.
With the exception of Philadelphia’s late scoring run, Vinc stood tall in the net for Rochester. The reigning Defensive Player of the Week made 37 saves on 50 shots. Fourteen of his stops came on 21 fourth-quarter shots.
Dan Dawson assisted on all three first-quarter goals as the Wings entered the second quarter up 3-2. He finished with a game-high five helpers in addition to his only goal with 27 seconds left in the game.
“They’re very resilient, they got great goaltending, they got a good coaching staff. There’s really no weaknesses in their team. They’ve had our number all year for a reason. You don’t win four lucky games. Unfortunately, it wasn’t out year for them,” said Dawson.
Craig Point made his presence felt for the Knighthawks in his second game back after sitting two out in Weeks 15 and 16. Point, who started the season on the injured reserve list, scored a team-best three goals and matched his career playoff high with five points.
“He was really good. He gave us some good quality minutes, some good timely goals. In that third quarter for us, he was very good without the ball. That’s one thing we had to get through (Point’s) head a little bit. Tonight, that came through and he was really good for us,” said Hasen.
Now, the Knighthawks will look prepare for their next game, although Walters has a preference.
“The next game’s the most important. We got practice Wednesday and we’ll prepare for whoever we play. That’s going to be a tough game for both team’s tomorrow night. Whoever we play, we will be focused, and if we play a full 60 (minutes), we’ll be on top,” said Walters.
“Obviously, we want Buffalo to win so we can get a home game. We’re pretty confident that we’ll sell this place out. We’re psyched right now. This is a big win for us. Up next is Round 2."