Flying down after a win in Toronto last night, the Rochester Knighthawks (9-3) earned a weekend road sweep by swooping past the Philadelphia Wings (3-9) by a score of 11-7 at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon.
Three shots and three goals for Rochester set the tone of the game before five minutes had even passed. With goals from transition wing Brad Self, forwards Craig Point and former Wing Dan Dawson— who snuck past CJ Costabile for a goal close up to Wings goalie Evan Kirk—Rochester forced an early goalie change for the Wings, bringing in Brandon Miller for Kirk.
With Rochester’s fourth shot of the night, Point sniped a rocket into the net of Miller for their fourth goal.
“We obviously wanted to try and catch a tighter team by running with them,” Wings head coach Blane Harrison said. “I thought we did a fairly decent job with running our transition, got some nice looks from the back end…but we had 48 shots and 7 goals doesn’t get it done, so we have to go back to the drawing board a little bit in the offense.”
Although Philadelphia found themselves on the forecheck several times, they just couldn’t get the ball past Rochester goalie Matt Vinc, who seemed to be unstoppable in the first, confidently guarding his net with save after save— a visible redemption from the previous night in which he let up eight goals against the Toronto Rock in the first quarter.
“I thought Vinc played really well in goal,” Wings forward Kevin Crowley said. “We tried to keep shooting. We knew they were going to fall eventually, I think you saw that in the third quarter there, but it’s tough and it’s frustrating as an offense to go against a defense like that and a goalie who’s playing as well as he did.”
Wings veteran and forward Tracey Kelsuky certainly felt the heat of his scoreless team as he instigated a fight with Knighthawks defender Ian Llord— who walked away from the fight with a bloody face.
However, with about four minutes left in the first, the Wings went on the power play and finally capitalized on the opportunity to get their first goal of the night from forward Jordan Hall.
But it didn’t take Point long to fire up again, recording a hat trick early in the second off of a dirty behind-the-back pass from Dawson, giving the Knighthawks a 5-1 lead.
The defense of Rochester proved to be an incredible asset, forcing the Wings into several shot clock violations, constantly blocking and outrunning the Wings offense. Even when Philadelphia found a way through the defense, Vinc was there and continued to shut down his opponent with outstanding saves.
“We didn’t put the ball where we should’ve a lot of times so that was on us,” Crowley said. "We should’ve been on the same page.”
Hall came out again, trying to get his team pumped up with a goal with a little over five minutes left in the second. However, the Wings ended the second period with only two goals out of 20 shots, a poor showing in comparison to Rochester’s five goals out of 18 shots.
The third quarter brought out a bit of a scoring spree between the two teams as Rochester put another one up on the board with a power shot from forward Joe Walters. The Wings decided to answer back only seconds later though with a goal of their own scored by Crowley, beating Vinc on the left.
The Knighthawks weren’t content with a three goal lead however as Point found Dawson unguarded in front of the net for an easy touch into the right side of Miller’s net.
But the Wings never gave up and continued fight back, earning their fourth goal from Crowley for his second of the night.
However, despite going on the power play, Philadelphia failed to immediately deliver on the one-man advantage and instead, allowed a shorthanded goal by Dawson, giving him a hat trick for the afternoon.
“The power play has to be better as well,” Harrison said. “I think once you get in a game where all of sudden goals are starting to become premium and you get a little tight, the fluidity of the power play starts to crumble. I thought we got a little stagnant and I thought we just kept it around the perimeter and didn’t really do that much cutting and when we had the shot— our shot selection was a little poor.
This mishap seemed to finally spark the Wings frustration as Crowley—who’s been silent with goals this season— found his way to a hat trick scoring a power play goal for the Wings.
“To be shut out in the first half and to score three was nice,” Crowley said. “But you keep pushing and pushing and you don’t really acknowledge it because it’s the next goal that’s important—so you try to set up your teammates and you try to put yourself in that situation to score.”
Philadelphia’s fire kept up this time, with captain transition wing Brodie Merill fighting through three opposing defensemen off of a smart pass from forward Kyle Buchanan.
Just 32 seconds into the fourth quarter, the newly re-ignited Wings cut Rochester’s lead to one with a goal from forward Ryan Ward firing the ball past Vinc, threatening Rochester’s promising lead.
With the a one-goal game, it looked hopeful for Philadelphia, however, the Knighthawks followed shortly after with forward Cody Jamieson scoring goal number nine for his team.
“I think you get to one and the momentum is in your favor but all of a sudden they’ve got some guys who can put the ball in the net,” Harrison said. “We saw that pretty explosive offense last night and they came down and got a couple of goals and all of sudden the one goal game becomes a three goal game real quick and when you’re in a three goal game with a half a quarter to go and your offense isn’t really clicking, it comes a bit of a tough go— so it got away from us at that point in time.”
Taking reigns of the game once again, Walters put Rochester back up by three, followed by the dynamic skills of Point—whose last name was certainly fitting for him on Sunday afternoon— as he once again executed for his team with his fourth goal of the game.
Vinc’s incredible play combined with the seasoned skills of Rochester’s Point and Dawson ultimately led to the defeat of Philadelphia who have now found themselves on the slump of a six-game losing streak.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Craig Point
2) Dan Dawson
3) Matt Vinc