All week long leading up to this weekend’s NLL action, the Rochester Knighthawks talked about not only winning, but putting on a show Saturday night for their fans. They wanted to make up for the dismal loss against the Edmonton Rush. They wanted to give their fans a reason to cheer.
Mission accomplished. The Knighthawks (9-4) defeated the Minnesota Swarm (5-9) by a score of 10-2 in front of 6,294 fans at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night. It was a historical night again, but this time the Knighthawks were on the right side of history. Goalie Matt Vinc and the Rochester defense helped set the NLL regular season single-game record for fewest goals allowed as Vinc stopped 39 of 41 shots faced.
“We just wanted to come out and redeem ourselves,” said Vinc. “We put that Edmonton game behind us, and went back to all the basics and try to play for 60 minutes. We played well [Friday] and today, we wanted to come out and give our fans a solid performance, especially with the way we played last weekend. It feels good to come back here and play a solid game… Our defense locked it down and played Knighthawk lacrosse.”
“It’s certainly nice to rebound like that,” said Knighthawks transition player Brad Self. “Everything starts with Matt. Matt was just unbelievable all weekend long. Then just playing tighter, a lot more talk, and playing together as one unit. That’s when we’re at our best, and that’s what we did all weekend long.”
“Tonight was just a good team victory all around,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. ‘“Vno’ played great. He made a lot of stops. Defense didn’t put him in bad spots. A lot of credit goes to the offense too for that defensive effort, they were getting off the floor and let us play five on five. It was a good team effort.”
Both teams played on Friday night and Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan was not having that as an excuse for his team’s performance.
“We have to get ready for every game,” said Sullivan. “We’re a team fighting for our playoff lives. We came in here completely undisciplined, unready and unwilling to go the extra mile offensively. Our defense kept us in and gave us a reason to continue to play. Our offense just couldn’t solve Matt Vinc tonight. Didn’t work hard enough to get the good shots… Our offense didn’t click not even once, obviously. Our second goal was a transition goal by a defender that I don’t think has got three goals all year.”
While Vinc and the Rochester defense may have stole the headlines, Zach Higgins was impressive as well in goal for the Swarm. He had 32 saves on 42 shots and along with Vinc contributed to a scoreless third period in which Higgins saw 12 shots and Vinc saw nine.
“They are a very good offense,” Sullivan said. “But I think our defense played incredible. I think that Zach Higgins made stops that he had no reason making… I mean, last time we played these guys we beat them 7-6 in overtime. So we knew it would be tight. We kept them as tight as we could defensively.”
Joe Resetarits continued his hot start with the Knighthawks after being acquired at the trade deadline. Coming off a two-goal performance on Friday night against the Toronto Rock, Resetarits netted a hat trick in the first half against the Swarm in his home debut.
“It was awesome,” said Resetarits. “Coming to such a great fan base and to play for the three-time defending champs, it’s an amazing feeling. Just going out there and playing with that good of an offense… They’ve welcomed me in very well. Just go out there and play your game and good things will happen.”
“He’s really good,” Hasen said. “He’s a different player that we don’t have on that side of the floor. He carries the ball very, very well. He sets great picks. He’s so quick, he’s got a great first step. He gets open and he gets guys open. It’s a good fit so far. He’s a young guy, but he’s had a lot of success. He’s a guy that’s going to work for you.”
The game also was Swarm forward Johnny Powless’ return to the Blue Cross Arena. Powless was drafted by Rochester in 2012 and helped the Knighthawks three-peat as league champions.
“To be on the other side of the bench, it was kind of different,” said Powless. “The play tonight wasn’t what we wanted, but I think moving forward it will make us better.”
“I played against him in the summer,” Vinc said. “He’s a great player. It’s definitely weird, especially with how close we were with him the last couple years. He’s a great player and I’m happy we were able to keep him off the scoreboard because he’s a dynamic player who can definitely put the ball in the net.”
With the playoffs looming on the horizon, the two teams appear to be headed in opposite directions. Coach Sullivan knows the Swarm have a lot of work to do and not much time left.
“In a team that’s sitting at 5-9 now, you need everything clicking,” Sullivan said. “It can’t just be the defense has a good night and your goalie has a good night. If we don’t get our offense doing something as well, we’re going to find ourselves on the short end of the stick more often than not. We’ve got a great offense, but when they take the night off, you can see we’re very average at best.
“I’ve got to talk to the coaches about what their decisions were in some of the situations out there that I see. They’ve got to build on confidence. We’ve got to find some things that work for us. Go back in the game tape and film, see what worked against New England… The challenge will be how do these guys react to it. We’ve called them out as a group and individually, and right now it’s going to be on them to produce.”
For the Knighthawks, the weekend slate of games brought them closer to the playoffs and within one game of the East Division-leading Rock.
“We want to get better down the stretch,” Vinc said. “We have a busy April and we just want to get some momentum going into the playoffs, make the playoffs and solidify our spot in the playoffs… It was a good step towards a playoff run.”
“It’s huge,” Resetarits said. “It puts a step closer to first. We’ve got a good stretch ahead of us. We’re going to need to play real good. ‘Vno’ played on fire and that’ll get us where we want. We’re sitting in a good spot right now, we’ve just got to keep playing.”
“I think we used last week as a bit of an eye-opener, a little bit of a wake-up call,” Hasen said. “We’ve got a long way to go still, but this weekend was really good. We’ll just keep that effort and that focus.”
Saturday also marked Zac Reid’s debut as a Knighthawk. While he was held off the scoresheet, it was still a memorable moment for him.
“It was awesome playing in front of our fans,” said Reid. “They’re a lot of fun to play in front of and very supportive. It was a real nice opportunity and I’m glad we got the win tonight.”
Rochester’s two goals allowed tied the NLL single-game record set in 1999 postseason semifinal where Toronto beat Philadelphia, 13-2. The Knighthawks play host to the Colorado Mammoth on Saturday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Swarm host the Buffalo Bandits on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Matt Vinc
2) Joe Resetarits
3) Cody Jamieson
By Jeremy Pike (@KnighthawksBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Micheline Veluvolu.