Dan Lomas had a seven-point night (3+4) in a must-win situation to lead the Rochester Knighthawks over the New England Black Wolves 15-13 in front of 5,816 fans at the Blue Cross Arena Saturday night.
The Knighthawks were on the brink of elimination from playoff contention with a loss to New England, and the fight was evident early. Before Lomas got on the scoresheet, he made an impression with a big hit as the Black Wolves attempted to transition to offense. The big hit may not have led to any goals, and in fact New England scored first, but it seemed to set the tone for Lomas’ night, especially after being a scratch in last weekend’s loss to the Colorado Mammoth.
“It started off in one of his first couple of shifts when he came up and blew that guy up as he was transitioning,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “He had a great game. . . Everyone has been put in positions that at the start of the year as an organization we didn’t expect, and they’ve all responded well. Proof here tonight. He played a great game.”
“It was nice seeing Danny (Lomas) answer,” said Rochester forward Dan Dawson. “He wasn’t in the lineup last weekend. He wasn’t moping around. The only way you can answer is when you get tested, and Dan answered the bell tonight. We’re very proud of his performance.”
“For Dan Lomas to come out and do that after missing last game, it shows how much character he’s got,” said Knighthawks defenseman Ian Llord.”There’s more good things coming for him.”
“He’s a hell of a player,” said Rochester forward Joe Resetarits. “How Dan has progressed as a rookie, he can play. That was a big game for him. He had something to prove, and he had a hell of a night tonight.”
“We needed that,” said Knighthawks defenseman Graeme Hossack. “The guys came to play this weekend, which was awesome.”
Sometimes physical play can spark a desperate team. Whether that hit did or not, no one can be sure. The end result was one of the more complete performances put together by Rochester all season. It was a true team win, especially with players like Llord having a three-point night (2+1).
“It was great, especially at home,” Resetarits said. “Our fans have been so great this year. We owe it to them more than anything. We knew what was at stake. We’ve been close so many times, and the fact that we stuck and played a 60-minute game of lacrosse, it shows you what we can do when we do that.”
“We kind of had a lapse again in that second quarter where four or five minutes got away from us and they took it to us,” Hasen said. “Other than that, we just answered what they were doing and kept moving forward.”
“It’s the only way we’re going to win,” Dawson said. “We knew that all season long. We need contributions from everyone. . . What Ian (Llord) did in transition, and I thought our power play was pretty good tonight. So you’ve got to have facets scoring in transition, on extra-man opportunities, and five-on-five, and we did that tonight.”
“I was struggling on defense in the first half, so I needed to do something,” Llord said. “Good teammates picked me up and helped me out, and I turned it around in the second half. Got the ‘W’, and that’s all that matters in the end.
“In that locker room, we weren’t taking no for an answer,” said Lomas. “All the guys came out and played the best they could.”
So what made the difference between previous games where they lost control of games?
“Just staying level-headed,” Dawson said. “I thought that at times throughout the year, we had those lulls of five-six minutes where teams go on runs, and we didn’t have that tonight. That was the biggest change I thought in our game. Second thing was answering every time they scored. That was big. We knew we would go on our run, but we had to limit their opportunities tonight.”
Heading in to the matchup, the Knighthawks found themselves shorthanded on offense again as rookie Kyle Jackson joined the ever-growing parade of injured Rochester players. There is no denying the team has struggled to consistently score (failing to record 10 goals in 10 games this season), and Jackson was the team’s leading scorer heading into Saturday night’s game.
“That’s been our method all year, has been next man up,” Lomas said. “We’re really embracing that. Whoever it is, everyone deserves to be on this roster. You’re just stepping up and really taking control out there.”
Yet it nearly all unraveled on the Knighthawks in the final minutes. New England went on a small 2-0 run with under four minutes to go to pull within one while pulling goalie Evan Kirk. Then with under a minute to go, Hossack was able to pounce on a loose ball, and with New England players converging on him as he attempted to move up the field, he fired a shot from more than half the field away and scored.
“I didn’t really think of much,” Hossack said. “I knew we needed that loose ball. . . Being able to put it in the net gave us a little bit of assurance there at the end, help us relax a little bit. Takes some weight off our shoulders.”
“It went in,” Hasen said with a laugh. “It was good.”
While the Knighthawks players and staff were celebrating at one end of the BCA’s locker room hall, the mood on the visitor’s half was much quieter. In the case of New England head coach Glenn Clark, quiet anger would best define his mood after expecting tough battle.
“I was (expecting it), said Clark before gesturing towards his locker room. “I’m not sure what those guys were thinking, but I knew it wasn’t going to be any different. They’re pro players, they’ve got pride, and they’re in their own building. I knew exactly what we were going to get. Disappointed in our group.”
The target of Clark’s ire? The defense specifically even with Kirk allowing 14 goals on the evening.
“It’s not on him,” Clark said. “I thought our ‘D’ was horrendous. I thought they were tragically bad. Poor decisions, bad reaction. They had a horrible game. Way too many quality shots, that’s not on our goalies.”
The review of his offense was better, especially with Shawn Evans joining the 1,000-point club. Yet it still came back to the defense.
“I think we did score enough to win the game,” Clark said. “We can’t keep getting in these races. We have to have stops. We’re giving up 14, 15, 18, 20 goals. We’ve got to evaluate what’s happening on our back end because it’s just not good enough. It starts with personnel. You decide whether guys are actually good enough to do it.”