Dan Dawson scored five goals to help lead the Rochester Knighthawks (2-1) to a 12-5 victory over the visiting Toronto Rock (0-3) in front of 8,365 fans at the Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night.
Dawson finished the night with six points, while Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc had 36 saves on 41 shots. It was a significant turnaround defensively from the Knighthawks’ home opener eight days ago when they fell to the Colorado Mammoth 16-14.
“We said when we left here that we needed to be better,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “They were. It was two good games all the way around.”
Per Teddy Jenner from TSN, this was Dawson’s first five-goal game since 2012 while with the Philadelphia Wings.
“It’s just a testament to how good my teammates are,” said Dawson. “It’s a team sport… Tonight the ball was falling for me.”
“That’s the ‘Daws’ we would like to see every night,” Hasen said. “He’s distributing but he’s taking his chances and shooting when the looks are there for him.”
In the early going, the Rock looked to have the upper hand as Colin Doyle notched two goals in the opening quarter to finish with four points (2+2) while only Jordan Hall was able to get the ball past Rock goalie Brandon Miller. Miller finished the night with 41 saves on 53 shots.
“I thought our guys played hard,” said Rock head coach John Lovell. “I’m proud of the way we played today. We came in with a plan, we were prepared in every way we could possibly prepare.”
While Dan Dawson filled up the goal-scoring side of the scoresheet, Cody Jamieson and Stephen Keogh certainly helped feed goals all night long. Jamieson finished with eight points (2+6) while Keogh finished with seven points (1+6). Jamieson has 25 points through the first three games of the season after recovering from his Achilles injury, which puts him on pace for a 150-point season. That would eclipse the current season record held by Shawn Evans with 130 points last season with the Calgary Roughnecks. What is driving Jamieson to be playing perhaps his best lacrosse yet after such an injury?
“Motivation,” said Jamieson. “I missed a lot of time. I had to sit out obviously last year with the Knighthawks (missing the second game against the Rock in the playoffs), I missed my summer time with the Chiefs, and then the World Indoors. It was a big event that I didn’t get to participate in. So motivation to get back and prove to everybody that I can still play…
“I still feel a little bit tentative. It’s going to be a mental thing. The doctors say I’m cleared, I’m healthy. My trainers say I’m strong enough, lifting more than before. But it’s still in the head. It’s going to take some time. It’s going to take time to get over that ‘If I move this way, or if I do this, then I’m going to hurt it.’ It’s going to take time. I feel good, I feel energetic, I feel light, fast, but I still think I’ve got another notch or two that I can get going here.”
“He’s back with full vengeance,” Hasen said. “He’s doing great things out there. He did a lot of hard work to get himself in this position. It’s paying off for him right now, and it’s paying off for us, so it’s great to see.”
The Knighthawks used a six-goal second quarter to essentially put the game away by halftime. They were aided by Brett Hickey’s five-minute goalie interference major that Rock head coach John Lovell vehemently argued. Dawson immediately converted with his second goal of the night and the Rock challenged. After the referee ruled that it was a good call, the Toronto bench was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to go down two men. Dawson then notched his hat trick less than 30 seconds into that two-man advantage.
“We were in the game, and we got taken out it by a bad call,” Lovell said. “Absolutely taken out of it, and then a stupid penalty on my part that made it even tougher on us… (Assistant referee) Greg Hart turned the game around for them, so he should be proud of himself. He did a great job. He did a great job. He missed so much stuff there and he finds that major there to spoil the game. Did he lose the game for us? No, but he spoiled it for everybody. So that’s what he did for us.”
To the Rock’s credit, they kept battling even after going down 7-2 at the half. Rob Hellyer finished the game with five points (2,3), scoring twice in the second half. The Rock defense clamped down, only allowing the Knighthawks to score five goals in the second half. Unfortunately the Rock offense only mustered three goals in the half and were unable to truly threaten the Knighthawks. Coach Lovell still felt like that second half could be quite important moving forward.
“I liked how we came out in the second half,” Lovell said. “We turned the corner here tonight. I didn’t like some of the things we did in the first half and even Thursday night. There were some mistakes, but tonight we played hard. We had each other’s back and we played the game the way we were supposed to… I’m proud of our guys. There’s no pointing fingers. We dug ourselves a hole, but Calgary dug themselves a hole last year and they were one goal away from being in the final, and that’s a fact. We know that we have our work cut out for us. We’ll get ready for Buffalo.”
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Dan Dawson
2) Cody Jamieson
3) Stephen Keogh
By Jeremy Pike for NLL.com.