The Rochester Knighthawks (3-2) defeated the Vancouver Stealth (2-4) with a 16-15 overtime win in front of 7,362 fans at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night. After the Knighthawks forced a shot-clock violation to regain possession, Cody Jamieson notched his fourth goal and ninth point of the night with 7:45 remaining in overtime to give the Knighthawks the victory.
“We got into a little bit of a transition match, where it was back-and-forth,” said Jamieson. “Obviously we like playing that way if we get our chances, but at the same time, that’s not our game. We’re a great five-on-five team. I think after I dropped that ball the one time in transition, we called a time out, set up a couple of things, talked about it, said we’ve got to slow this down and play our game. We tried a little play, it didn’t work, so I took it into my own hands. I took a couple of shots that the goalie saved, I was thinking that kind of shot would work.”
The Knighthawks likely would not have been in that situation without backup goalie Angus Goodleaf. Matt Vinc, Rochester’s backbone in net, got the start but was replaced in the second quarter after the Knighthawks surrendered eight goals on 25 shots. Rochester was down 8-3 and the entire team looked listless. Goodleaf stepped in and finished the game, picking up 27 saves on 34 shots by the Stealth, and the Knighthawks took flight.
“Gussy stepped up and played well,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “But it kind of got everyone angry. We all put ourselves in that position, it wasn’t ‘V’. It was the 17 guys on the floor that put us in that position. They took exception to it, and away they went.
“If Gussy’s not here, Gussy’s playing every single night. It’s a testament of what Gussy is, his character. He’s willing to accept that role, he’s the best team guy we have on this team. When it’s his turn, he steps up and usually plays well for us.”
“I just wanted to give the team a spark, make the first couple of saves,” said Goodleaf. “Hopefully we can get some goals. The game turned around when I came in. Credit to the defense, they tightened up back there, and the offense started putting the ball in the net.”
“That’s a character win,” said Knighthawks forward Dan Dawson. “We were battling to stay in the game. Every time we scored, they responded. We got off to a slow start, then our defense really settled in in the second half. Our ‘O’ got on a bit of a run there, found our groove. The ‘D’ did their job in overtime. We all know that the first couple of possessions, the game is over. It was unbelievable how they shut the door in overtime.”
Garrett Billings, Corey Small, and Rhys Duch gave Vinc and Goodleaf problems all night long with each of them earning a hat trick.
“They’ve been playing well recently,” said Stealth head coach Dan Perreault. “There’s some good chemistry happening there. We’re happy with that, that we’re putting up some goals and the ball is moving. There are some good things happening on the offensive end for sure.”
“They scored a lot of five-on-five goals tonight,” said Knighthawks defenseman Mike Kirk. “We didn’t play the best last game either, so we need to go back and figure out what we need to fix so we can be better next week. We don’t seem to win a lot of these close ones, but it was a good one tonight.”
It was a tough loss for the Stealth after giving up a five-goal lead they held in the second quarter. They kept fighting even after Knighthawks forward Dan Dawson gave the Knighthawks a 15-14 lead with only 40 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. Forward Rhys Duch scored with only 20 seconds left for his eighth point (3, 5) on the night.
“We made some good plays out there, we just made some mistakes that cost us,” Perreault said. “They battled hard. It was a close game. Rochester is a good team, they played us hard and they came on hard. It was good that we battled back, but it came down to one shot at the end of the game and they hit it. We had a lead during the game and just made a few mistakes.”
“A game like that, we actually put up some good numbers and had some really good performances on the back end, Eric Penney included,” Billings said. “There’s positives and negatives to take away. This team is really coming together as a group, we really like each other. But we’ve got to cut out the stupid mistakes. I had a couple myself. On that one five-on-four, I stayed out on the floor and I shouldn’t have. We’ve just got to clean those things up… If we hit a goal instead of hitting a goal post, then everybody in our room is celebrating and talking about how great a game we had.”
It was a night where the Knighthawks needed every bit of offense they could get after only netting three goals through the opening 28:22 of the game. Defenseman Mike Kirk even got in on the action in the third quarter with a breakaway goal, his first of the season and first since 2014.
“I don’t shoot very much, so it’s always good to chip in when I can,” Kirk said. “But I’ve already told the boys not to expect any more, so that’s it for the year. Anything we can do, right? If the offense struggled for a couple minutes, we tried to get the ‘D’ to push the ball, and I just happened to have a little bit of a break tonight.”
The 16 points for the Knighthawks was a season high, and it came the night after the team traded away forward Jordan Hall to the New England Black Wolves and acquired forward Quinn Powless and defenseman Mike Manley.
“Number one, they’re both quality people which is one thing that (Knighthawks owner Styres) Curt (Styres) always looks for in bringing guys into the room,” Hasen said. “A lot of depth. Manley’s going to be a beast back there when he’s ready and cleared to play. Quinn’s a young guy, but he’s going to bring some hunger and some stuff that his game brings for us that we’re going to need moving forward. It’s a tough one losing Hallsy. Hallsy is a big piece of us, but we move forward.”
“It’s awesome, I’m super excited about it,” said Manley. “It’s hard to put into words when you grow up watching this team. I remember coming here on Saturdays, watching Patty O’Toole and all that. It’s honestly very surreal… I’m looking forward to getting out there and contribute any way possible that I can.”
The Knighthawks improve to 3-2 and move into a tie for first place in the East Division with the Black Wolves and the Buffalo Bandits after the win. They travel to the Sasktel Centre to take on the Saskatchewan Rush on Friday evening.
The Stealth drop to 2-4 on the season. They return home to host the Calgary Roughnecks on Saturday night.
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Cody Jamieson
2) Cory Vitarelli
3) Garrett Billings
By Jeremy Pike for NLL.com. Photo by Micheline Veluvolu.