The New England Black Wolves held off a late charge to defeat the Rochester Knighthawks 9-8 Saturday night at the Blue Cross Arena in front of 6,336 fans. The final two minutes of the game saw the Knighthawks score twice and have a last-second shot to tie it, but the New England defense held strong much as it had all night long to secure the victory.
The first half set the tone for a battle. The Knighthawks kicked off the game with an early goal from Dan Dawson who posted three points (2+1), but New England had an answer to every goal, including the game-tying goal with under a minute remaining in the half by Shawn Evans. That was Evans’ only goal of the night but he added five assists en route to a six-point effort.
“I think it was the kind of game we always expect,” said Black Wolves head coach Glenn Clark. “It’s always a hard battle in here. They play tough in this building. It’s one of those things, it’s a hard building to win in. It’s kind of the game we expected.”
How hard of a battle might have surprised some, considering Rochester played the night before and lost to the Toronto Rock.
“I think it was a good bounce-back game for us,” said Rochester head coach Mike Hasen. “But I thought we were okay tonight. We played well, opportunities were there, but we just played even-keeled. We never had that extra little push tonight, we just didn’t have that extra little gear tonight.”
Then the Black Wolves got their first lead of the game 1:31 into the second half on Stephan Leblanc’s second of the night. Leblanc finished with six points (2 +4) to help lead the New England offense.
Midway through the third quarter, David Brock got his lone goal of a night to kick of a three-goal run for the Black Wolves that extended into the early part of the fourth.
That proved to be the longest run of the night and the most important as well. Despite Rochester taking a number of one-goal leads in the first half, they were never able to string together two or more goals until the final minutes of the game. A big part of that was the performance of goalie Aaron Bold. Bold set his season-high in saves with 48 on the night.
“Timely saves,” Clark said. “That’s the thing I addressed after the game. I’ve talked with other guys, too. Guys like Matt Vinc, a guy I played with, Bobby Watson. The good goalies, it’s not always about the number of saves, but it’s timing. He made some big ones down the stretch that allowed us to, whether we had a gap of two goals and allowed us to keep that gap, allowed us to keep us tied, whatever. He made timely saves.”
The second goal of that run brought the building to life for the first time since the first half. The Black Wolves were hit with a too-many-men penalty with under two minutes to play, and Rochester was awarded a penalty shot. Who else to call on than Cody Jamieson?
“You don’t really expect to go, but you expect to go,” said Jamieson. “I feel everybody should want to be the one to go shoot. It shows confidence. So I was standing at the door, thinking ‘Call my name, call my name, I’m ready.’ So as you go running up, you’re just looking at the goalie. One-on-one, nobody checking you. You’re just thinking ‘What does he think that I’m going to think,’ or ‘what is he thinking that I’m thinking that he’s thinking.’ It’s just a chess match. Luckily I played chess growing up, so I was watching him, and I had a plan. Luckily it worked.”
The Knighthawks even won the resulting faceoff and had a chance to tie the game before the final buzzer. Yet there was the defense that did what they had to do to get the win, and New England left with the hard-fought and well-earned victory.
“It was going to be ground out to the end,” Clark said. “We hoped to be the last man standing, and tonight luckily enough, we were. . . The penalty shot thing was a little bit of a surprise for us. We weren’t anticipating that. That made it a little uncomfortable.”
The Knighthawks offense continued to put up pedestrian numbers after lighting up the scoreboard through the first two games.
“I think those first couple of games, everybody was shooting and scoring,” Jamieson said. “There was no adversity, there was no hitting pipes and coming out. There was no frustration. In any game, if you can score early like that, the confidence is high all game. In the past couple of games, we’ve been having trouble in the first quarter. It’s not nothing in particular. We’ve all had a couple of pipes, a couple of missed passes. As it starts going and it starts rolling, it’s like a snowball and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
“The monkey in the room starts getting bigger and more mobile. By the time we know it, we’re down going into the fourth quarter. It’s just a matter of calming down, settling down, and getting the confidence back. Everyone’s got to get their stick in their hands and get their confidence back.”
Rochester fans hope the confidence gets going quickly as the two teams meet against on Sunday January 21 at 2:00pm ET.
Three stars of the game as voted by the media: