Matt Vinc made 49 saves, including the 6,000th of his career, helping the Rochester Knighthawks (2-2) hand the Toronto Rock (2-1) their first loss of the season, 9-8 in front of 10,817 fans at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Saturday.
With the milestone, the 34-year-old netminder became just the fifth player in NLL history to reach the 6,000 club.
“I think firstly it signifies that I’m getting older,” Vinc, a native of St. Catherine’s, Ontario, said laughing.
“It means a lot. I’ve had some ups and downs in my career, to do that especially [in Toronto] in front of a lot of family members. It’s pretty special.”
“He’s okay. Just 6,000 saves. He’s okay,” Rochester’s Paul Dawson joked of his goaltender after the game.
Joe Resetarits scored a hat trick (three goals, one assist) as the Knighthawks were able to avenge a season-opening loss to the Rock on Dec. 29 in Rochester. On Saturday, Rochester was able to shut down Toronto’s speedy transition game, which scored seven goals in the opener.
“We got burned in transition in the first meeting,” Vinc continued to NLL.com. “We wanted to get back and play as tight as we could. That’s the type of game that we want to play. We [also] had a tough game in Saskatchewan so it’s nice to bounce back and get a big divisional win.”
Vinc backstopped the Knighthawks to their second win of the season despite being outshot 57-32 by the Rock.
“Vinc was really solid tonight. He was really big,” head coach Mike Hasen told NLL.com. “[Overall,] we were much more prepared for the [Rock’s] transition game this time around. You didn’t really see us shooting from the outside much at all…I thought our defense did a really good job keeping their forwards to the boards.”
Toronto’s Brett Hickey (4 goals) and Tom Schreiber (2 goals, 3 assists) led the Rock, who mounted a comeback that had fans on the edge of their seats until the final buzzer.
With less than 30 seconds remaining and the Rock down 9-8, Hickey had a chance to tie it but whistled his shot wide of Vinc’s right post. The Rock outscored the Knighthawks 4-2 in the second half but for head coach Matt Sawyer, it wasn’t enough.
“We didn’t do the things that made us successful in our first two games,” Sawyer told NLL.com “We just dug ourselves too deep of a hole and weren’t able to come out of it. Full marks to [Rochester], they deserved that win.”
Hickey, who missed the team’s last game with a lower-body injury, was quick to credit the five-time NLL goaltender of the year.
“Vinc is a great goalie. He’s been the league’s top goaltender for several years so our shots have to be perfect. When he is on his game, it is very hard to get the offense to flow…we threw a lot at him but we have to be better at finishing.”
At the opening draw, the Air Canada Centre was noticeably darker than usual. The Knighthawks took advantage scoring two goals in the first 1:31 as Jarrett Davis and Josh Currier beat goaltender Nick Rose.
Directly after the second Knighthawks goal, the game was delayed for 13 minutes for technical difficulties to fix the lighting. Once the game resumed, the Knighthawks were dealt some bad news as Cody Jamieson, who missed the first three games with a knee injury, left in the first quarter and did not return.
Jamieson, the 2014 NLL MVP, set up the first two Rochester goals.
“He has a lower-body injury right now,” coach Hasen said. “We’ll have to see how he is doing in a couple of days.”
ROCK’S COMEBACK FALLS SHORT
Down 3-0, the Rock finally beat Vinc at 6:33 of the first quarter as Hickey’s shot trickled through the Knighthawks goaltender. Then after two straight Rochester penalties, Hickey and Schreiber netted power-play goals for the Rock, tying the game at three.
Toronto’s eight-year veteran Stephan Leblanc (one goal, three assists) earned his 300th career assist on Schreiber’s goal.
But the Knighthawks got the momentum right back with four straight goals (Ian Llord, Resetarits (x2) and Kyle Jackson) to make it 7-3 in the second quarter. Before the end of the first half, the Rock cut the deficit to three with Hickey’s third of the game, also Toronto’s third power-play goal of the night.
With the score 8-5 after three quarters, the Rock continued to battle in the fourth, getting a goal from Stephan Leblanc, who missed the first two games this season. After Rochester’s leading scorer Kyle Jackson made it 9-6, the Rock again countered with two goals in 27 seconds from Kasey Beirnes and Hickey, his fourth of the game to make it 9-8 with 6:20 to go.
The Rock captured 98 loose balls compared to the Knighthawks’ 51. The Rock also dominated the faceoff circle, winning 17-of-21 draws on the night.
Rose finished with 23 saves on 32 shots for Toronto.
The Knighthawks next travel to New England to take on the Black Wolves on February 3 while the Rock are also in action next Friday, facing the rival Buffalo Bandits at the Air Canada Centre.
NOTES: Knighthawks’ 16-year veteran Dan Dawson (three assists) returned after missing the last two games for personal reasons…Transitional player Andrew Suitor played his first game for Rochester after being acquired in August. He was named the NLL Transition Player of the Year in 2012.
Three stars of the game:
1) Matt Vinc (ROC)
2) Joe Resetarits (ROC)
3) Tom Schreiber (TOR)