In front of a 6,006 strong crowd at Blue Cross Arena, the Rochester Knighthawks survived a late push by the New York Riptide to earn their second win of the season.
The win was also rookie goalie Rylan Hartley’s first career NLL victory and his play was crucial throughout the game especially in the last few minutes where he made a huge save to maintain the Knighthawks’ lead.
“I’m just worried about the next shot and focus on one save at a time,” Hartley said after his 49 save performance. “It feels great. We’re gonna enjoy it for tonight and then it’s on to next weekend.”
The Knighthawks and Riptide traded goals to start the game as they felt each other out in the first half. The Knighthawks came out hot to start the 3rd Quarter scoring 5 straight goals to jump out to a lead. They kept the pressure on and lead 13-6 after Holden Cattoni scored his 4th goal of the night.
However, the Riptide would not go down that easy as they staged a 4th Quarter comeback highlighted by Dan Lomas’ 4 straight goals that would make it 13-12 with under 2 minutes to go.
The Knighthawks faced a similar situation they have been in two previous games where they led by one goal with a minute left but allowed the other team to tie it and send it to overtime. This time they were able to survive the final minute and escaped with a big win.
“Lightning can’t strike three times I guess,” Knighthawks Forward Holden Cattoni remarked after the game. “We just stuck to our game plan. It was unfortunate that we got away from it in the 4th Quarter and let them crawl back into the game, but that’s kind of the way it goes with the ebbs and flows of the game. Tonight, it kind of all came together for us and were fortunate enough to pull it out in the end.”
Without veteran Shawn Evans in the Knighthawks lineup, the offense had to find a way to work together to fill the hole that he left on the right side. They got a very balanced performance from the whole offensive unit as Curtis Knight dished out 8 assists, Holden Cattoni had 6 points (4g, 2a), Mark Cockerton chipped in 4 points (2g, 2a), and players like Ryland Rees and Doug Utting also scored some huge transition goals.
“It’s a little different playing with 3 rights instead of 4 rights so everyone’s got to learn to adjust to playing with each other.” Curtis Knight said reflecting on the offense’s performance. “I think we can start seeing the chemistry from the guys who have been playing now in 10 games together.”
The New York Riptide were led by Dan Lomas’ 8 points (6g, 2a) and rookie Tyson Gibson’s 7 points (2g, 5a) as they made their comeback attempt that just fell short. Rookie faceoff man Alex Woodall won an impressive 22 of 29 draws to give the Riptide plenty of opportunities to get back into the game.
Ultimately, Rochester was able to pull out the win and claim bragging rights in this battle of the expansion franchises. This game could very well be the difference in determining draft position after the season.
The Knighthawks will be back in action next weekend as they will head west for back-to-back games against the San Diego Seals and Colorado Mammoth.