The defending champion Rochester Knighthawks moved on to the second round of the 2013 NLL Playoffs with a 10-8 home win over the Philadelphia Wings in the East Division Semifinal on Saturday night.. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
The defending champion Rochester Knighthawks kept their repeat hopes alive by advancing to the second round of the 2013 NLL playoffs with a 10-8 home win over the Philadelphia Wings, extending their 12-year postseason win drought, in the East Division Semifinal at The Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night.
Rochester’s Dan Dawson, acquired from Philadelphia via trade before the regular season, opened the scoring with the first of his four first-half goals 6:07 into the game. Dawson’s scored his second of the night with 26 seconds left in the first quarter on a diving goal to give the Knighthawks a 3-0 lead as goaltender Matt Vinc stopped all eight shots by the Wings after 15 minutes of play.
The teams traded six goals in the first six minutes of the second quarter, starting with two quick tallies by the Wings in the opening 1:24, before Dawson’s fourth with less than minutes left in the half put the Knighthawks up 6-4 at halftime.
“[Dawson] is a veteran guy and he likes the ball in his stick and he dictates the pace of the game,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “When ‘Jammer’ went down, we needed that guy to be there for us, and Dawson stepped up for us.”
20 seconds into the second half, Rochester’s Dylan Evans took a five-minute major penalty for high sticking and Philadelphia converted on the power play to pull within a goal almost two minutes later.
After killing off the rest of the penalty, the Knighthawks made it 7-5 on forward Stephen Keogh’s goal midway through the third quarter before Wings leading scorer Kevin Crowley answered with 1:37 left with his second goal of the night to cut the deficit to 7-6 after three quarters.
Wings forward Brendan Mundorf tied the game just 21 seconds into the fourth quarter. After Philadelphia’s Ned Crotty was assessed an illegal cross checking penalty with 7:30 left, Rochester’s Craig Point scored a quick stick one-timer goal to pull ahead 8-7.
With 3:21 remaining, Rochester defenseman Scott Self went to the box, much to the dismay of the home crowd. Less than a minute later, Wings forward Drew Westervelt was called for roughing and exactly one minute after that, Knighthawks defenseman Paul Dawson, who scored just once in 16 games during the regular season and came along with his brother Dan in the preseason trade, extended their lead to 9-7 with a diving goal.
“We had numbers so then I kind of ran it up,” Paul Dawson said. “Their guy left me at first, so I went to take the shot and then he came up to play me, so that’s when I ducked underneath. I threw a little bit of a fake and [Wings goalie Brandon Miller] went down. I knew I was close to the crease so I dove and tried to get it over top of him.”
“We’ll take it,” Hasen said. “It was a good lift, especially coming from a defensive guy. Our defense stood tall and it was nice for Paul to get rewarded there.”
The Wings were assessed an illegal substitution penalty with 38 seconds left and any hopes of last-minute heroics were gone when Mike Accursi made it 10-7 with the man advantage. Philadelphia scored in the final seconds but it was too little, too late in a game in which Rochester never trailed.
Wings general manager and head coach Johnny Mouradian felt the defense gave his team an opportunity to win, but that the offense settled for shots and deviated from the game plan while Crowley, Mundorf and Westervelt each finished with a pair of goals.
“All we ask of Miller and our defense is to give us an opportunity to win and they did,” Mouradian said. “I think our offense got off of our game plan and starting doing things you can’t do. We gave them some transition and we took a penalty in the offensive end at the end and you can’t have those mental breakdowns. You’ve got to score more than seven goals.”
Knighthawks forward Cody Jamieson, the team’s leading scorer and 2012 NLL Championship Game MVP, left the game due to a lower-body injury in the second quarter and did not return.
Philadelphia’s last playoff win was exactly 12 years prior when they claimed the franchise’s sixth title with a 9-8 victory over the Toronto Rock in the NLL Championship Game on April 27, 2001.
“We were rolling a little bit at the end of the year,” said Wings transition player Jordan Hall. “From an offensive point of view, we finally started to figure it out. [Rochester played] tough ‘D’, had a good goalie, a different style of defense. Our offense didn’t click the way it has been.”
Hall was involved in the trade with Paul Rabil that sent the Dawson brothers to Rochester, but according to Dan Dawson, there wasn’t any additional pressure to win against his former team.
“It’s just another game for us, and I know I speak for Paul and I when I say that,” Dawson said about playing his former team. “I had some great memories while we were in Philadelphia. Obviously we were on the other end of that last year.”
An NLL team has not won back-to-back championships since the Rock earned consecutive titles in 2002 and 2003.
Rochester will play the winner of Sunday’s East Division Semifinal game between the Toronto Rock and Minnesota Swarm, live from the Air Canada Centre at 3 p.m. ET on TSN2 in Canada or on Fox Sports North Plus and YouTube via The Lacrosse Network in the U.S. and outside Canada.
Last season, Rochester earned their first playoff win inside the Air Canada Centre in the 2012 East Division Final to advance to the NLL Championship Game.
“I’m going to key in and probably DVR it on TSN2 and hopefully see some tendencies,” Vinc said. “The thing is about being a goalie is that as soon as you win one game, you’re onto the next, and right now I’m thinking about the opponents for next week.”
Knighthawks beat writer for NLL.com Travis Larner contributed to this report.