A game of milestones, a new rivalry formed, and an instant classic in a battle inside the Scotiabank Centre. The Halifax Thunderbirds defeated the Rochester Knighthawks 14–12 in the first of three meetings between the two this season.
To start the game, the Thunderbirds picked up right where they left off. Jake Withers won the draw and just 19 seconds later Cody Jamieson did what Cody Jamieson does, scoring his first goal wearing the purple and orange.
After taking distributor role last week, the reliable Jamieson notched his first goal for his new team against his former city.
“I didn’t even think about that. They’ve rebranded, it’s not the same colors, it’s not the same logo, and I think the biggest part is we got to bring our team with us. It’s the boys who make the team… that’s family, that’s home. We’re here,” said the Captain Jamieson.
The new-look Knighthawks were not going to make this an easy game for the Thunderbirds, however, seeking their first win and looking to make a statement. Tough defense and relentless transition allowed them to answer with two quick goals in the first quarter and take the lead, gaining momentum from a shorthanded fast-break goal by Dan Lintner. A goal by Ryan Benesch tied the game at two, but the Knighthawks transition was too fast for the Thunderbirds in the opening quarter, providing a two-goal lead heading into the 2nd.
A penalty at the end of the first had the Thunderbirds on a PowerPlay to start the 2nd quarter, but the Knighthawks defense stood strong until Austin Shanks was able to break free as the penalty expired, bringing the Thunderbirds within one. Some sloppy play and turnovers by the Thunderbirds allowed the Knighthawks to capitalize, and back to back goals by Shawn Evans and Curtis Knight gave them a 6–3 lead.
Then, the two-time NLL Defensive Player of the Year took over, and Graeme Hossack ran the length of the field and scored in transition.
“We always like to play good defense first and our transition will come from that,” said Hossack. “We have a lot of fast guys on the back end and they want to push it when it’s there. I had my opportunity, so I capitalized.”
A power play goal by Jamieson followed by a Stephen Keogh tally quickly tied the game at 6 with 1:33 remaining in the half. The Knighthawks, however, weren’t going to go into the half without trying to reclaim the momentum, and Phil Caputo snuck one past Warren Hill with 5 seconds remaining to take a 7–6 lead going into the half.
The keys for the Thunderbirds coming out of the break were to stop the transition and to work harder. In the 3rd quarter, they did just that. A goal by Keogh quickly tied the game at 7, and after letting only one goal get by in the 3rd, Warren Hill stood tall between the pipes. The Thunderbirds would go on to score 5 straight goals to end the quarter, led by the rookie in his debut game, Clarke Petterson. Notching his first and second career goal just 6 minutes apart, Petterson quickly proved why he was the Thunderbirds first pick in the draft this offseason.
“You just focus on one play at a time… I want to do whatever it takes to get another goal for our team whether it’s a loose ball or a reset,” said Petterson. “The veteran leaders like Keogh, Beni [Ryan Benesch] and Jammer [Cody Jamieson], they really help me out by telling me what they’re seeing on the floor, telling me what they think I should do, what I can do to help the team, it’s really their leadership. If they say jump, I say how high?”
In the 4th quarter, the Knighthawks fought hard, adding 4 more goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Warren Hill had another excellent performance. Making acrobatic saves in close and from range, the Thunderbirds goaltender anchored the defense, allowing the offense to keep the momentum in their favor. A third goal by Petterson and transition goal from Mike Burke fueled by exceptional ball movement gave the Thunderbirds their 14th goal of the night. Warren Hill continued to amaze, making critical saves as the clock ran down, sealing the game.
Petterson topped off his stellar debut game with a highlight reel behind-the-back goal recording a hat trick in the 4th to give the Thunderbirds a 13–9 lead. With two assists as well, Petterson earned the Player of the Game honor in his first career NLL game.
That was not the only milestone achieved tonight. With his goal in the first quarter, Ryan Benesch of the Thunderbirds moved into 9th All-Time in points. Jay Thorimbert of the Rochester Knighthawks also became the NLL’s All-Time leader in Face-Off wins.
The Thunderbirds and the Knighthawks play each other twice more this season, on March 14th and March 28th, with both games taking place at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York. After a hard-fought game tonight and the history between these two clubs, those upcoming matchups will surely be some of the biggest rivalry games in the league to date.
The Thunderbirds move to 2-0 in their inaugural season and will look to remain undefeated when they take on the Buffalo Bandits in a North Division matchup next Saturday at 8:00pm AST/7:00pm EST in Buffalo, New York. The game can be seen on B/RLive.