The Edmonton Rush (6-5) used a fast start to defeat the defending champion Rochester Knighthawks (4-6) with an 11-9 road win at The Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night in a rematch of the 2012 NLL Championship Game.
“You try not to think about that game,” said Rush forward Zack Greer in reference to last year. “They’re a great team and we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy night. When our offense slows down a little bit in the third quarter and they’re firing on all cylinders, we needed our ‘D’ and our goalie to step up. They did and they gave us a chance in the fourth to get a couple of more.”
Zack Greer opened the scoring 4:54 into the game as the Rush jumped out to a 2-0 lead midway through the first quarter before the Knighthawks got on the board on the power play. Edmonton responded just 20 seconds later and scored twice more in the final 1:12 of the quarter for a 5-1 lead after 15 minutes of play.
Rochester scored twice on the power play in the first 3:43 of the second quarter to cut the deficit to 5-3, but Edmonton made it 7-3 before halftime after Greer scored with three seconds left in the first half. The Knighthawks finished with just 14 first-half shots.
The Rush lead was narrowed to 8-7 after the Knighthawks scored four of the five goals in the third quarter, including a nifty “Air Gait” dunk goal by Cody Jamieson from behind the net.
“It looked a lot like the Champion’s Cup in the second half,” said Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. “We didn’t do a lot on offense in the third quarter. We kept grinding away at it…Then we got the three there because we kept at it. We didn’t stop working.”
A little over five minutes into the fourth quarter, Greer scored twice in a 1:02 span before Rush rookie Mark Matthews scored his third of the night less than a minute later to make it 11-7. The Knighthawks scored the next two goals, the second of which with 1:04 left, but the deficit was too much to overcome.
“It’s tough,” said Rochester forward Mike Accursi. “Sometimes we’re working hard but not smart. You get behind against a team like that—they’re a young, athletic team—it’s a big hole to climb out of. There has to be a sense of urgency in the locker room. Sometimes I don’t think we had that.”
After a strong showing in a win over Colorado on March 2, the Knighthawks reverted to their struggling ways. Rochester turned the ball over 33 times while only earning 33 shots on goal.
“It took us almost three quarters to get going as a team,” said Rochester head coach Mike Hasen. “Once we started moving the ball and moving our feet a little bit more, we had some success. We’ll take the second half, where we did outscore them, and we’ll take that moving forward.”
“I wouldn’t say that we’re not working together,” Accursi said. “We’re struggling to find an identity. Last year, we had lots of different things happening in the locker room and outside of the locker room that brought us together whether we liked it or not. We gelled there. This year it’s about finding that identity. [Who are] the 2013 Knighthawks?”
Rush goaltender Aaron Bold finished with 23 saves on just 32 shots while Knighthawks goalie made 36 stops on 47 shots in the losing effort.
“Especially in the last five or six games, he’s made key saves when he’s had to,” Keenan said. “He made a couple in fourth quarter when it was a one or two-goal game. They’re swing saves, and they were in tight. He made some in-tight saves that if he doesn’t make, the game goes the other way.”
Edmonton’s Ryan Ward finished with a team-high six points (2+4) while Greer (4+1) and Matthews (3+2) both added five points. Rochester’s Cody Jamieson had a game-high seven points (2+5), Dan Dawson had five points (2+3), Mike Accursi had four points (1+3) and Cory Vitarelli had a game-high 13 loose balls.
Both teams were perfect on the power play with Edmonton going 2-for-2 while Rochester went 3-for-3.
The Knighthawks wore special blue and white digital camouflage jerseys that will be auctioned off after the game.
The Rush continue their road trip in the east with a visit to the Buffalo Bandits on March 23 at 7:30 p.m. The Knighthawks have their second bye week of the month before returning home to face the Toronto Rock on March 30 at 7:30 p.m.