In a rematch of last year’s Champion’s Cup Finals, the Rochester Knighthawks (6-3) defeated the Calgary Roughnecks (1-7) by a score of 12-11 in front of 7,018 fans at the Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night. While fans may remember the dramatic Game 2 and subsequent 10-minute tiebreaker game, neither team concerned itself with that game last year.
“Last year is last year,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “The emotion that comes comes from within and it comes from what we need to do this season.”
“There was no talk about last year at all,” said Knighthawks forward Cody Jamieson. “It’s a new year and we’ve felt that way since the start of the year. We’ve got some new guys who weren’t here last year, so they obviously didn’t feel that feeling at all. We lost some guys. We’ve got a different team, whole different season. It wasn’t talked about, wasn’t mentioned. We saw a dangerous team coming in here who was desperate for a win.”
The Knighthawks used a dominant first quarter and a quick goal to start the second to hold off a hungry Roughnecks team searching for its second win of the season.
“We knew going in there we wanted to get an early start and jump on them there,” Jamieson said. “Like we always say, lacrosse is a game of runs. We try to limit theirs and go on ours. We did a good job in the first quarter.”
After falling behind 7-1 early in the second quarter, the Roughnecks came alive behind an offensive attack led by Shawn Evans, Curtis Dickson, Jeff Shattler and Daryl Veltman.
“It’s unbelievable,” Malawsky said. “We have the mentality ‘bend, but don’t break.’ We battled, we stuck with it. A lot of team could have folded up, and that could have been a 17-5 game. We won the second quarter, tied the third, and won the fourth quarter. Special teams, I think we came out on top. It just happens that big game players make big plays, and ‘Jammer’ made a great play at the end of the game. One thing that I can say, one word that comes to my mind, is proud. I was proud. I am a proud coach of those men today. They competed in every aspect of the game. They played hard. We just didn’t play 60 minutes. That first quarter came back and bit us.”
“It’s the ebbs and flows of this league,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “You’re up but never really up and free. They’re going to claw back, and that’s what this league is about, two teams battling. A couple of bounces their way… It’s a game that’s too close a game.”
Evans finished the night with eight points (3+5) to lead all scorers. Dickson keyed the second Roughnecks comeback en route to tying the game in the fourth quarter on a four-goal effort. Shattler finished with seven points (2+5) and Veltman with five points (2+3).
“They mean the world to us,” Malawsky said. “They battled hard. Those guys are engines and those guys are motors. Dickson gets big goals, Evans makes big plays. Shattler had a great game, so did Shattler.”
Yet when it was all said and done, the hero of last week’s Knighthawks-Bandits tilt finished off the Roughnecks. Cody Jamieson had a seven point night (3+4) to lead the Knighthawks on offense but no point scored tonight was bigger than the final goal he scored with 3:48 left in the game to give the Knigthhawks a 12-11 lead.
“It was great,” Jamieson said. “It’s just a matter of coming down to it, getting the ball in your stick at the right moment. It’s not necessarily going to be the next game. Any one of our offensive guys can put it in the net. We had eight different goal scorers tonight to their four. That just goes to show that our whole offense can put up goals. That’s great to have. Teams can’t focus on one guy. Every game someone else is going to step it up.”
Then after Jammer’s goal, it was the Matt Vinc and his Knighthawks defensemen show. The Roughnecks had ample opportunity down the stretch to tie the game, but every time in that last three minutes, ‘Vno’ stood tall in net. A save on Evans with about 10 seconds to go preserved the lead.
“It was huge,” Hasen said. “He pulled it out for us. They were pressing, they had a lot of good shots. Too many shots, too many open shots and ‘V’ made some big saves there at the end just to hold it.”
“You have a gameplan and you watch game film to see what they do,” said Self. “But at the end of the day when it’s 30 seconds left, it’s a little bit of desperation. Sticks flying everywhere, ball’s flying everywhere, and you’re just trying to keep it out. ‘V’s’ the last line of defense for us and it’s been that way ever since he’s been here. He came up huge.”
“Our defense leads us out there,” Jamieson said. “It starts from ‘Vno’ and then the defense. When they’re on, the offense is usually on. We rely on them a lot to make the saves and make the stops when we need them.”
Then the defense was able to outlet the ball the length of the floor coming out of a timeout and the buzzer sounded.
“We’re bending but we’re not breaking,” Hasen said. “That’s one good thing. We’re going to battle back as best we possibly can… We’re looking at our record, 6-3 right now is a good spot to be.”
Transition player Brad Self had oportunity knock for him tonight twice and capitalized both times, albeit in different ways. He coralled a turnover close to midfield and raced in on goal all alone and finished.
“Once I picked up the ball I realized it was me and an open floor,” said Self. “It’s nice to be able to contribute and put the ball in the back of the net. Last time I scored it was on an empty net so it was nice to put it pasta goalie.”
Then late in the fourth with the ball on his stick, he spotted Jammer coming out the front door and found him to assist on the game winning goal.
“I’m smart enough to know to pass it to Cody!” Self said with a laugh.
The Roughnecks travel to Edmonton to take on the Rush on Sunday, March 8 at 4 p.m. ET. The Knighthawks have next weekend off before traveling to Calgary for a rematch with the Roughnecks on Saturday, March 14 at 9 p.m. ET.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Cody Jamieson
2) Curtis Dickson
3) Dan Dawson
By Jeremy Pike (@KnighthawksBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Micheline Veluvolu.