The Edmonton Rush (12-0) continued their historic start with a 15-11 road win over the Rochester Knighthawks (9-4) in front of 8,632 at the Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night. The Rush, who handed Rochester their first home loss of the season after winning their first five at the BCA, tied the league's single-season record 12-straight wins set by the '07 Knighthawks.
The game started off well for Rochester, with forward Cory Vitarelli striking first less than three minutes in with an assist from Craig Point. However, the rest of the first belonged to the undefeated Rush. Edmonton went on a four goal run, keyed by a power play goal while Knighthawk defender Mac Allen was off for holding, and one of Edmonton forward Mark Matthews' 2 goals and one of his 4 assists on the night on his way to capturing the first star of the game.
"It's definitely tough against Rochester," Matthews said. "They're a little bit bigger than we are on offense. They pressure a little bit and they're just big guys that are tough to move."
The Knighthawks went on a run of their own to start the second quarter, scoring three times in the first three minutes to tie the game at 4. Cody Jamieson contributed one of his two goals and one of his three assists during the run, while Vitarelli picked up his second goal. Dan Dawson also notched his first of five assists on the night, a total which led to his second star selection.
However, that run came to a halt due to an issue that plagued the Knighthawks all night long. While Vitarelli was off serving a too many men on the floor penalty, the Rush connected again on the power play to retake the lead, 5-4. Penalties were one of the major keys to this game. The Rush went 3-for-5 on the power play, but they also scored when there were coincidental penalties as well.
"Power play's been getting better the last three, four games," Edmonton Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan said. "We've been pretty good in our execution... We took advantage of some things we saw in them, against their man down and the guys executed really well and finished our shots too."
"We were able to get a lot of power plays," Matthews said. "And capitalize a lot on power plays which deflates a team."
"They're a good team," Vitarelli said. "Any time you give them chances, they're going to make you pay for it. Tonight, I don't think we were the most disciplined at times, but that's the game of lacrosse and it's how you react to it. Unfortunately, they made us pay on the chances we gave them."
The other reason that penalties were a major story was that this game set this season's single game record for penalty minutes. That feat was accomplished in the first half, in part because of three distinct fights and associated penalties with that. Two players, Edmonton's John Lintz and Rochester's Joe Walters, were ejected from the game. Two ten minute misconduct penalties were assessed as well.
That power-play goal by Robert Church to take the lead 5-4 led to another run for the Rush, five goals in all. Mark Matthews contributed another goal and an assist during that run.
Craig Point scored one of his two goals as the first half wound down to bring the Knighthawks back within four, 9-5. Any hope of that goal providing some momentum for Rochester was crushed in the third quarter along with the Knighthawks' chances of winning.
Edmonton opened the scoring just over two minutes into the third period which was the first of three goals scored on consecutive possessions. Stephen Keogh, who has been a big part of the Knighthawk offense of late, scored his lone goal of the game to bring the deficit back down to four, 10-6, before the Rush came right back down the floor to extend the lead to five. That goal started a three goal run for Edmonton that saw Matthews notch another assist and third star of the game, goalie Aaron Bold, add his second assist of the night.
Jamieson did halt the run on the power play to cut the lead to 13-7. However, Matthews tallied his last assist of the night on a John LaFontaine goal to reclaim Edmonton's seven goal lead, 14-7.
The Knighthawks fought back with a four goal run, but in the end, it was simply too little, too late. When Jarrett Davis notched his second goal of the game with under three minutes to play, the Knighthawks' rally fell short. Rochester did not come away impressed with the late flurry however.
"You don't take too much from it," Jamieson said. "We expect more out of ourselves. We don't expect to just do that in the last five, ten minutes. We expect that all game long... We've got to play like we did in the last ten minutes for the whole sixty minutes. That's what it's going to take to beat that team- a whole sixty minutes. They're in first place in the whole league for a reason."
"We have a lot of pride," Knighthawks transition player Brad Self said. "We don't want to get blown out. That being said, we've got to show up a lot earlier than we do and we can't depend on coming back late in the game. We've got to make sure we're ready from go."
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Mark Matthews
2) Dan Dawson
3) Aaron Bold