The Rochester Knighthawks earned a 3-Peat by their winning third-straight NLL Champion's Cup title. (Photo: Kevin Hoffman)
With one last Matt Vinc save at the buzzer, the Rochester Knighthawks made National Lacrosse League history by winning their third-straight Champion's Cup title. The Knighthawks defeated the Calgary Roughnecks 16-10 in Game Two and came back for a 3-2 win in the subsequent tiebreaker mini-game in front of 9,188 fans at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night.
The final seconds were reminiscent back to the 2013 NLL Champion's Cup Final. A flurry of chances for the Knighthawks' opponents, and one final Vinc stop to preserve a one-goal win for the Cup.
"It was kind of like last year, same situation," said Knighthawks forward Joe Walters. "We know our 'D' is going to come up with a big stop, 'V' is going to make a big save. This is very fitting."
"I have no idea what happened," said Knighthawks defenseman Mike Kirk. "Just trying to be as big as I could, take a lane and try to block a shot. They had a lot of opportunities late, but 'Vno' made the big save and put it in the corner. He never quits. He makes big saves for us through the whole game. A lot of people talk about our defense, but really we have the best goalie in the league. A lot of credit goes to him."
The first period of Game Two was a fast-paced physical affair. The Roughnecks jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Shawn Evans and Curtis Dickson. Cody Jamieson cut the lead in half for the Knighthawks, but Daryl Veltman extended the Roughnecks' lead to 3-1.
"They jumped out to an early lead tonight," Kirk said. "We made a few adjustments early, matched their intensity."
Stephen Keogh brought the Knighthawks back within one, 3-2. Then Dan Dawson, who missed Game One of the Champion's Cup Finals in Calgary, tied the game with a power play goal.
"It was obviously hard for me to watch the game in Calgary last week," Dawson said. "But it also puts... Things in perspective and makes you appreciate the little things in life that can be taken away from me real easily."
Rochester struggled in Game One to score with Dan Dawson out, scoring only seven goals in Calgary compared to sixteen goals in Game Two and three in the mini-game.
"Dawson is a big part of our team," said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. "But again, it comes from the twenty-three guys in our locker room. Dawson controls the pace of the game for us in the offensive end, but it's not on Dawson, it's on everybody, and everybody played their role tonight. We're comfortable at home, we play well at home. We always have."
Joe Walters gave the Knighthawks their first lead of the game early in the second quarter. However, the Roughnecks went on a three goal run, including two goals by Dickson to complete his hat trick and one by Jeff Shattler, to take a 6-4 lead.
The Knighthawks responded with their own three goal run on goals by Keogh, Cory Vitarelli, and Jamieson to retake the lead, 7-6. A flurry of chances by both sides at the end of the first half went to the wayside, leaving the Knighthawks with a 7-6 lead over the Roughnecks at the half.
Vitarelli opened the scoring in the third quarter with a Sportscenter Top 10 behind-the-back goal. That goal was the first in a three-goal run for the Knighthawks finished by goals from defensemen Paul Dawson and Scott Self, giving Rochester a 10-6 lead.
The Roughnecks came back with a three goal run of their own with Shattler scoring twice to complete his hat trick and Dane Dobbie adding one to bring Calgary back within one, 10-9. That was as close as the Roughnecks would get the rest of Game Two. That goal by Dobbie was his only goal of the game after scoring fifty-one during the regular season.
"He seems to be able to put the ball in the net from anywhere on the floor," Kirk said about Dobbie. "Behind the back, overhand, bounce, so a little special attention to him tonight, especially in the overtime."
"It was a bounce here, a bounce there," Calgary head coach Curt Malawsky said of the Roughnecks' inability to stay close and snatch a win in Game Two.
Dan Dawson opened the scoring in the fourth quarter after snagging a rebound and diving across the crease, keying a four-goal run for the Knighthawks. Jamieson scored his third goal of the night, followed by Dawson scoring his third, and Craig Point capped the run to give Rochester a 14-9 lead.
"It's the same thing all year for us," Hasen said. "On any given night, it's going to be one, it's going to be all of them, and we needed all of them here tonight. When we get that kind of contribution, we know we're going to win. Tonight was all-around. Hey, that's the way we play."
Scott Ranger brought the run to a halt for the Roughnecks, bringing them within four. Keogh answered quickly for the Knighthawks with a falling behind-the-back goal. Jon Sullivan scored in transition to give Rochester a 16-10 lead, their largest of the night and the final score of Game Two. Sullivan's goal was the third goal scored by Knighthawks defensemen in transition.
"Our guys have a yellow light in the transition game," Hasen said. "It's got to be there for us. The guys are smart enough to read it, and we'll take those when they come."
Calgary jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the ten minute mini-game on goals from Evans and Dickson.
"The second game, it could have gone either way," Malawsky said. "I thought we managed our time well with our goaltenders and rested some legs. Guys came out hungry, and we were two minutes and fourteen seconds away from being successful."
"Just to be down two-nothing with five minutes left," Walters said. "It was a tough spot for us, but I think that just shows the heart of this team, to claw back. We knew if we got the first one, the ball will start dropping. We just took it one shift at a time."
"Gutsy effort by these guys," Hasen said. "Never once panicked, and we knew we'd have our opportunities. It was just a matter of hoping they'd drop. We could have folded our tent, but that's not what these guys are about."
Point brought Rochester back within one, and Walters tied the game at 2. Point notched the game winner, Vinc made the last stop at the buzzer, and the Knighthawks made history.
"It's tough to swallow," said the former Knighthawk Evans. "When all is said and done, we played hard till the end. And unfortunately, we were one goal short."
"I'm proud to be a Roughneck and I know these guys are too," Malawsky said.
Dan Dawson was named the 2014 NLL Champion's Cup Finals series Most Valuable Player.