The Rochester Knighthawks (7-3) defeated the Philadelphia Wings (3-8) by a score of 13-8 in front of 8,560 fans at the Blue Cross Arena Saturday night. The Knighthawks continue their home unbeaten streak this season, improving to 5-0. Two of those wins come against their divisional rival Wings.
The game was physical from the opening face off, and the Wings staked themselves to a 2-0 lead early in the first quarter behind goals from Ryan Ward and Kevin Crowley.
“We just had to really weather their storm,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “They came out hard and they were pressing and they were pushing...that first quarter, we were on our heels a little bit.”
As the first quarter wore on, the Wings notched two more goals from Pat Saunders and former Knighthawk Jordan Hall. However, the Knighthawks were able to get back into the game due to the Wings' penalty issues that plagued them in the first half. Johnny Powless scored on the power play to bring the score to 2-1.
“We started to get a little more pushback,” Hasen said. “Got our feet underneath us and away we went.”
“In the first quarter, we didn't really play the way we wanted to, including myself,” said Rochester goalie Matt Vinc.
Then towards the end of the first quarter, Cody Jamieson came off the bench on a delayed penalty and walked through the high slot untouched before ripping a shot past Wings' goalie Evan Kirk. That goal brought the Knighthawks within two, 4-2 at the end of the first quarter.
Even with Jamieson's goal, Kirk was sensational all night, especially in the first half. Rochester had multiple quality chances right at the crease and Kirk was up to the task.
“He was playing very well,” coach Hasen said. “We had our opportunities and he was making those big saves.”
“Evan Kirk is a big goaltender,” said forward Stephen Keogh. “He stood tall the first half and even the second half.”
“Kirk made a lot of big saves when we were right on top of the crease,” Jamieson said.
In the second quarter, Rochester seemed to really get their legs under them and went on a 3-0 run in a nine minute span. Stephen Keogh, the second star on the night, continued his hot scoring streak as of late, opening the second quarter scoring at 2:23.
“He's been playing really well for us,” coach Hasen said. “That's the Stevie we need, that's the Stevie that came in and played his first year... he's playing with a lot of confidence right now and we're going to keep feeding him the ball.”
“I'm just trying to go hard every shift,” Keogh said. “The ball's been falling for me the last couple games, but I'm just trying to do anything to help the team. We've got so many great players on offense, it could be anyone's night each night.”
Jamieson and Cory Vitarelli each scored on power plays during that three goal run. Vitarelli's goal at 11:20 gave the Knighthawks their first lead of the game, 5-4.
Hall struck again at 12:18 to tie the game at 5, which is how the first half would end.
The third quarter was a see-saw affair with Rochester taking an early 6-5 lead on Vitarelli's second goal of the night just 1:32 in. Hall again would answer for the Wings at 3:54 before the Knighthawks scored two straight goals with Joe Walters and Joel McCready finding the back of the net.
Walters' goal at 5:06 into the third quarter was his tenth of the season, which is a career high for him.
“It's nice,” said Walters, the third star of the game. “I really just care about us as a team. I think our goal is every week we play, every week we practice is just to get better as a team and I think we're starting to do that. You know, personally to put some goals in, it feels good but if I was doing that and we were losing, it wouldn't be very special at all... I think I'm just shooting more this year, and I'm more confident in my shot.”
Garrett Thul brought the Wings back within one 10:17 into the third, 8-7, but that would be as close as Philadelphia would get the rest of the game.
Jamieson, first star of the game, notched two goals in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to stake Rochester to a three goal lead, 10-7. The Wings cut that lead to two at 5:53 with Crowley's second goal of the game, but the duo of Dan Dawson and Stephen Keogh helped shut the door.
Powless picked up his second of the game at 6:50, with assists from both Dan Dawson and Keogh. Then Dan Dawson scored at 13:33, and Keogh finished the scoring with an empty net goal at 14:27 with an assist from Dawson and Keogh.
Rochester's defense was key in the Knighthawks closing the game out. Hall, the former Knighthawk, had a hat trick and two assists through three quarters and was a big part of keeping the game close. After the game, he talked about the struggle facing the stingy Rochester defense and Matt Vinc in goal.
“They've got big bodies back there on defense,” Hall said. “Really hard to generate some open looks... Vno's a very, very talented goalie. Watches a lot of film, he knows guys' tendencies. Sometimes he can take you out of your game just because you start second guessing yourself, thinking he maybe knows where you're going... Mix that in with the defense, and it's definitely a tough combination.”
“I've said it multiple times,” Vinc said. “I'm spoiled with these guys in front of me. This has been going on for a few years. I can't say much more about how good and how much they battle and play airtight defense in front of me. A lot of times, it's awesome to watch. You can see the fans appreciate it, whether it's a blocked shot, a loose ball, or a big hit, and they're doing it in a lot of different ways.”
The Knighthawks take to the road again for a divisional tilt against the rival Toronto Rock next Saturday, March 15 at Air Canada Centre at 7 p.m. ET.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Cody Jamieson
2) Stephen Keogh
3) Joe Walters