Raise your hand if you thought the Rochester Knighthawks would have a 6-6 record after dropping six straight en route to 2-6. It would have been understandable to write their eulogy. The offense was floundering.
Yet there Rochester stands after an 11-10 overtime victory over the Georgia Swarm at the Blue Cross Arena Saturday night. The amount of people that thought it would happen is slim.
Yet the locker room believed. When head coach Mike Hasen was asked if he thought he would be conducting interviews of a 6-6 team after the losing streak, he paused.
“You know what? You hate to say yes, but yeah,” said Hasen with a chuckle. “Because these guys are in this room for a reason. It’s the character they have. I mean, we knew we were going to come out of it. It may sound cocky. . . but the way we were working inside the dressing room that no one else sees, it just breeds confidence. Right now, it’s showing on the floor. So long story short, I do believe it.”
“Oh man,” said Cody Jamieson after the game. “At 2-6, would we have said 6-6? That’s what the ultimate goal was. But at 2-0 when we were at the start of the season, this is a bad spot. We’re lucky. we’re very, very lucky that the East side is as close as it is this year, because we very well could have been out of it by then, losing six in a row. We’re very, very fortunate. We’re very, very lucky, but hard work brings luck. You’ve got to work hard to capitalize on luck. We’ve been having our nose to the grindstone, we’ve been putting in the work.”
It was not an easy road to get there. Not the previous three games, and certainly not when Georgia came to town. Jamieson got the scoring started after seven minutes of fast-paced action, but Ian Llord committed a five-minute major penalty for high sticking and the Swarm pounced.
Kiel Matisz tied the game only 39 seconds into the penalty, then Lyle Thompson scored 3:34 later to end the power play and give Georgia their first lead of the game. That was the final goal of the first quarter.
The Swarm were not done yet. Jordan Hall opened the scoring in the second quarter to increase the lead to 3-1. Despite the three-game winning streak, Rochester could have folded at that point. Swarm goalie Mike Poulin and his defense were limiting the Rochester offense.
The veteran leadership stepped up when it could have been a breaking point midway through the second quarter. Jamieson ended the run, then got an assist on Austin Shanks’ lone goal of the night that tied the game. Then Brad Gillies scored in transition to retake the lead 4-3 only 1:36 after Jamieson’s goal. Neither team was able to break through for the rest of the quarter, and the Knighthawks had the 6-4 lead at halftime.
It only took Georgia 2:34 into the second half to tie the game. Jordan MacIntosh cut the lead to one, then Jerome Thompson tied it up. In less than three minutes, the atmosphere at the BCA had turned sour.
While Jamieson found the back of the net twice in the first half, he was not done on the scoresheet. He collected three assists, including on a last-second power play goal by Joe Resetarits, to help stake the Knighthawks to a 9-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
As resilient as Rochester was, the Swarm matched them through the entire game. This time, it took them 7:28 to erase the lead and another 1:31 to take the lead. Lyle Thompson scored twice, Shayne Jackson chipped in one, and then Jerome Thompson got his second of the night to take the lead.
Fannell got his second of the game only 35 seconds later to knot it up at 10. The final five minutes of regulation were tense as both teams traded blows and scoring chances.
“It’s the lessons learned from the previous 11 games,” Hasen said. “We’ve got a confident group right now, and they’re playing with confidence. We knew we’d have our opportunity to get it.”
Then the Swarm had a golden opportunity to win the game in the dying seconds. Billy Dee Smith got ejected from the game after an illegal cross check and game misconduct with only 36 seconds remaining.
Georgia worked the clock down with a chance to secure a last-second win. That plan fell short as a Knighthawks defender jumped in front of a shot with under 10 seconds left in regulation, then a floor-length pass nearly connected with Jamieson who streaked off the bench and in on Poulin.
The ball bounced harmlessly to the turf and the buzzer sounded, but Jamieson tumbled to the floor too. Jason Noble got his stick in and held Jamieson. The game went to overtime, and instead of the remnants of a five-minute power play for Georgia, fans were treated to four-on-four lacrosse.
Lyle Thompson nearly won the game on the first possession, but the ball found iron and bounced away rather than finding the back of the net. The Knighthawks almost won on the next possession but were similarly turned away.
Then Resetarits found Kyle Jackson, and he ripped a shot past Poulin after only 1:30 of overtime. 6-6.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids in here,” Hasen said. “We’ve got a lot of veterans as well. It’s 18 games of lessons, and we’ve had 12 lessons. We’ve taken the good, we’ve taken the bad. There’s going to be more bad going. But right now, it feels nice to be on the right side.”
“That’s the ultimate goal, is to keep getting better every week,” Jamieson said. “I’ve been saying that while we were on our losing streak, I was saying we want to get better every week. That’s it. We’ve just got to keep rolling. It’s tough out there, it’s a tough league. I think the East side is definitely showing it. If you don’t show up a night, take a night off, you’re going to lose. We’ve just got to keep going, keep rolling, try to punch our ticket.”
As for Jamieson’s comment on being lucky about just how tight the East Division is? As it stands after the win, Rochester holds the third and final playoff spot in the East over the 5-5 Toronto Rock.
Rochester heads back out on the road for a clash with the Colorado Mammoth on Saturday March 17 at 9:00P.M. ET. Georgia returns home to host the Buffalo Bandits on Sunday March 18 at 4:05P.M. ET.