The Rochester Knighthawks (12-4) defeated the Vancouver Stealth (4-10) by a score of 10-7 in front of 6,248 at the Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night. With the win combined with Buffalo's loss to Minnesota, the Knighthawks locked up the NLL East Division regular season title.
The Knighthawks and Stealth played a very physical and choppy game that did not feature a lot of goals nor much of a flow. The score at half time was 4-3 Stealth, with Johnny Powless for Rochester and Lewis Ratcliff for the Stealth both scoring twice.
"The whole game was frustrating for us in terms of scoring chances," Stealth head coach Chris Hall said. "We had some chances, [Knighthawks goalie Matt] Vinc played great and we didn't put the ball behind him. You're not going to win too many lacrosse games in this league when you only score seven goals."
"It was tough to get a feel," Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen said. "The whistle was blowing a lot tonight. That had a lot to do with it."
"We had some sloppy play in the first and second," Knighthawks forward Craig Point said. "We just had to come together as a team and slow things down and not play into their game."
"It was a strange game," Knighthawks defenseman Brad Self said. "Obviously with penalty calls here and there, so it was nice to get the win. It's nice to know we can obviously win those games, and sometimes they can turn at any point. A call here or there, a no-call here or there."
The Stealth, clinging to playoff hopes, did not back down at any point and came out hard after the Knighthawks.
"We knew that virtually our playoff lives were on the line," coach Hall said. "Playing in a tough building against a great team, back-to-back champions, I thought we played very very well. I thought we played a very good game, just not enough offensive production."
"Their backs were against the wall," Point said. "They were coming out with everything they had."
"That's a playoff-type atmosphere for them," Knighthawks forward Cody Jamieson said. "They come out with a lot of energy. They wanted to prove that they were going to win this game. I think we did a good job, a decent job matching their intensity."
"Obviously any time you're playing against a team that big, you're going to have to give that extra effort," Self said. "They're a big team, a physical team, they played hard tonight."
Rochester has been scoring goals at a high rate, so the early parts of this game had to be frustrating for the Knighthawks' offense.
"It's tough, especially when you have success," Knighthawks forward Cody Jamieson said. "Every team now in the pro leagues nowadays watches film, so they knew what to expect and they made a game plan for us."
"I don't know if it's frustrating," Knighthawks forward Cory Vitarelli said. "They have a good team and they came out hard. I think that's a testament to sort of how the game went early on. The whole game it was hard to come by goals."
The third quarter was more of the same, with the Knighthawks scoring the two lone goals of the frame from Craig Point and Dan Dawson.
The fourth period featured more goals (8) than the entire first half (7), seeing Point complete his hat trick and Cory Vitarelli pick up two goals that were key to putting Vancouver away at the end.
"The two in the fourth quarter came at real opportune times for us," Hasen said about Point. "The six-on-five one was a good one to keep us paced in the first half. He had another good night."
"Luckily at the end, we got a couple that gave us a win," Vitarelli said. "It was good, but like any other time, it's always a team win. I'm just part of a 25-man group we got, so any time you can chip in, it's great, but it's a team effort all around."
What could have been the biggest play of the game occurred after a Stealth breakaway and Vinc came out of the crease to go get the loose ball in the corner. Stealth forward Kyle Sorensen came up and hit Vinc hard into the boards, incurring a five minute boarding major and the wrath of the Knighthawks. Vinc lay on the turf, drawing the concern of his teammates, the medical staff, and the fans at the BCA. Fortunately Vinc got up on his own and continued to play.
"Just went a little awkwardly into the boards," Vinc said. "Fortunate that nothing bad came. It's just the type of the game it was. Heat of the moment, and I got caught in a vulnerable position, but overall good."
Point's hat trick to lead the Rochester attack continues to demonstrate the trend that any Knighthawk can have a big night.
"It's comforting as a team that you can count on every guy on our team," Vitarelli said. "Every guy who gets an opportunity has a chance to step up and sort of contribute. It's nice for us as a team to know that it's possible."
"All five guys on the floor can score a goal,"Jamieson said. "Doesn't have to be one or two guys. That's what makes this team so dangerous."
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Matt Vinc
2) Craig Point
3) Lewis Ratcliff