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Knighthawks ride Vinc's defense to National Lacrosse League title

05/19/2012, 9:20pm EDT
By Alan Rosenhoch for NLL.com

Rochester goaltender shuts down Edmonton in second half amid rally

Rochester's Matt Vinc shakes the hand of former teammate Aaron Bold of the Edmonton rush following the Knighthawks' 9-6 win in the Champion's Cup final on Saturday night. (Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)

Cody Jamieson may have been voted Most Valuable Player, but goaltender Matt Vinc made a strong case himself as he backstopped the Rochester Knighthawks to their first Champion’s Cup victory since 2007 on Saturday night. 

Vinc allowed only six goals on 52 shots propelling the Knighthawks a 9-6 victory over the Edmonton Rush before 9,722 extremely loud fans in Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena.

After giving up five goals in the first half, Vinc shut the door allowing the Rush only one goal in the second half.  He did not allow a goal for a 26:22 span starting in the second quarter. 

The Rush dominated the flow of play in the first half, taking a 5-1 lead into the locker room after outshooting the Knighthawks by an incredible 31-11 margin. 

The 2011 NLL Goaltender of the Year, Vinc was under a constant barrage early on, but he kept Rochester in it with 26 first-half saves. 

“We just wanted to stay in that ‘climb-back’ distance,” said Vinc of his play in the first half.  “We weren’t really out of the game.  If we were able to score on some of those opportunities in the first quarter when we hit some pipes, it would have been a different game.

“It is what it is and it’s good to see how we played defensively.  We were able to give our team a chance and then in the third quarter [Cody Jamieson] and the offensive guys really started moving their feet and getting some real good looks.”

Vinc gave a lot of credit to his defense and even their play in the first half, despite allowing 31 shots on goal through two quarters.

“Our defense did a good job limiting their time and space.  Most of their shots in the first half were outside shots, ones that I think (Knighthawks coach Mike Hasen) and our defense were willing to give up.”

Hasen agreed, noting that the hole going into halftime could have been far deeper had it not been for Vinc’s play.

“He was really big.  We gave up some shots that we wanted to give up but they also had a lot of quality good looks inside that [Vinc] came up big for us,” said Hasen. 

Edmonton knew it had a big challenge on its hands with Vinc coming into the game and the Rush got all they could handle.

“I thought he was awesome,” said Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan.  “It’s always a concern coming into a game that a goalie can steal one and perhaps [Vinc] did tonight.”

Aaron Bold, Vinc’s counterpart in net for Edmonton, continued his strong play.  Coming off a game in which he allowed only three goals against Minnesota in the West Divisional Final, Bold was stellar in the first half, allowing only one goal on 11 shots. 

Bold was Vinc’s backup here in Rochester last season, before he was sent to Edmonton last October in a trade that also included ironman Shawn Williams leaving western New York for northern Alberta. 

After Bold’s one-goal first half, Vinc appeared determined to match his former teammate.  He did just that, allowing just a single tally in the second half as Rochester came back, clawing the victory away from the Rush.

Vinc downplayed the matchup with Bold as a motivating factor.

“As a goalie it’s a little bit of a battle [with the other goalie], but my focus was on their offense,” said Vinc.  “It was a good goaltending battle and Aaron played great and gave his team a chance to win…but our guys shot really well and made it pretty hard on him in that third quarter.”

Bold was clearly upset with the result. 

“Definitely there was a little bit of a momentum change but I believed in all of our guys that we were going to stop it like we have before and carry on with our momentum, but unfortunately they just kept taking advantage of our faults,” said Bold.  “They played a better second half than us.” 

Bold had a fantastic playoff run, giving up only 23 goals over three games after a stellar season in his first as a full-time starter.   

After going into halftime trailing 5-1, the Knighthawks came out in the second half and looking like a completely different team, going on a 6-0 run to seize control.

“It just seemed like the momentum shifted our way,” said Vinc of his team’s huge turnaround.  “We never gave up and I think that’s a testament to the type of team we are.  Even though we’re pretty young we have some great leadership out there.

“We gelled as a team at the right moments and I think it was all confidence there in the third and fourth quarters which gave us the win.”

Early in the third quarter Vinc made two big stops, one a kick save on Edmonton captain Jimmy Quinlan and another on Aaron Wilson, who finished with a game-high 13 shots. 

“We had a couple real good looks early in the third quarter,” said Keenan.  “If those two go in then it’s 7-1 and it’s probably a different game.”

As Rochester stormed back by going on a seven-goal run, Vinc continued to shut the door, keeping Edmonton from halting the Knighthawks’ comeback.

“We weren’t able to answer on offense…the best way to answer a run is to score and we just weren’t able to,” said Keenan. 

Vinc was acquired by Rochester prior to the 2011 season in a blockbuster trade that sent the Knighthawks’ all-time leading scorer John Grant Jr. to Colorado, among several other players and draft picks. 

The trade has clearly paid dividends for Rochester with the Champion’s Cup, while Colorado was eliminated in a West Divisional Semifinal by the Minnesota Swarm.  

“We came up with maybe a flawless second half,” said Vinc.  “That’s what Championship teams do, they find a way to win and I think we’ve done that throughout the course of the postseason.

“It’s just a great feeling to be able to win here in Rochester.”


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