It was a historic night as the Rochester Knighthawks got their first win in franchise history after defeating the Calgary Roughnecks 13-12 in a back and forth game in front of the faithful Knighthawks fans who braved the snow.
It was a night of firsts as Knighthawks’ rookies Ryland Rees and Thomas Whitty scored their first NLL goals and goaltender Craig Wende got his first NLL win. Rees scored 2 goals on the night with both coming at very crucial points in the game.
“I’m happy about it, but looking at the bigger picture it’s the first team win and firsts for a lot of people,” Rees said after the game. “I think it was just great all around team defense, the offense was rolling, and that’s a gritty win.”
Calgary got off to a hot start with Eli Salama scoring 2 goals in quick succession on breakaways to take an early lead. The Knighthawks would respond with 3 straight goals, but Calgary answered right back starting with a Curtis Dickson penalty shot. That would be the trend all game as both teams went on several multi goal runs, but the Knighthawks were able to keep the game within reach all night thanks to the stellar play of Wende in between the pipes.
“Wende’s made the saves to allow us to gain that momentum back,” Knighthawks’ Head Coach Mike Hasen said reflecting on Wende’s 42 save performance. “I think a lot of it is the group in front of him as well. I think we’re putting their guys in better spots for Craig to make those saves and the ones where we do breakdown he’s making a lot of spectacular saves to save our butts a little bit too. He’s just playing solid and that’s what we need and what every team needs in this league is a goalie that gives us an opportunity to win and so far he’s given us that.”
Wende has provided a calm and steady presence in the net in his past two starts and his ability to quickly move the ball up the floor after making a save has given the Knighthawks more opportunities to score in transition. Wende even got an assist on Cory Highfield’s transition goal in the 3rd Quarter.
The Roughnecks scored several goals of their own in transition and had an answer for just about every Knighthawks goal to keep the game close. Dan Taylor lead the way with 3 goals while Curtis Dickson, Eli Salama, and recently acquired Dereck Downs each had 2. Roughnecks’ goalie Christian Del Bianco is one of the league’s best, but the Knighthawks were able to find ways to beat him.
Curtis Knight scored the game winning goal off of a low to low shot that got past Del Bianco and then the Knighthawks defense held on during the last few minutes of the 4th Quarter to secure the historic win.
Knight would score 3 goals and add 3 assists, while Holden Cattoni had 1 goal and 5 assists and Shawn Evans dished out 5 assists on the night.
“I think we just did a great job in transition tonight and got a lot of goals from our back end,” Cattoni said praising the work of the defense. “Those are huge to just take the pressure off our offense a little bit. Those are things we’re gonna need to do to win and fortunately tonight everything fell into place.”
The Knighthawks will not have too much time to celebrate as they travel to Philadelphia to play the Wings at 7 pm tomorrow night.
“We’re going to enjoy this for about half an hour or so jump on the bus then we’ll turn the page and start getting the guys prepared for that,” Hasen said looking ahead to the game tomorrow in Philly. “We’ll see how long we can ride this one out.”
The Wings also played Saturday night losing to New England in overtime. Both teams will have to find some extra gas in the tank to finish out this busy weekend of NLL games.