It had been a long time coming. Since the 2012 Champion’s Cup Finals, in fact. The Rochester Knighthawks defeated the Sasketchewan Rush 16-11 in front of 6,188 fans at the Blue Cross Arena Saturday night.
“It was a long time coming for us,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “We’ve got 24 guys in that room that all believe in each other and all believe in what we’re doing. It just took us a little while to get there. . . We were due. We were overdue.”
“It definitely wasn’t forgotten that we haven’t beaten these guys in that long,” said Rochester forward Cody Jamieson. “These guys have had our number for a while. I would lie if I said it didn’t feel good to finally get that monkey off our back and finally beat these guys.”
“They played really well,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan. “They prepared. I told our guys coming in that their 3-6 record is not indicative of how good a team they are. If you look at their statistics, they’re a good team. . . They haven’t beaten us since the 2012 championship game. I’m sure that’s in the back of their minds too.”
The offense has certainly come alive the last two games for Rochester after being in the doldrums during their six-game losing streak.
“It’s working right now,” Hasen said. “It’s by committee. It’s not on one guy here. It’s great to see. That’s where we’re going to be successful. It’s not one guy scoring, it’s everybody scoring. Tonight was another game where we had everyone scoring.”
When asked what the difference has been since the Knighthawks went on the road to play the Georgia Swarm on February 11, Jamieson had a bit of an amusing answer.
“Desperation, I guess,” said Jamieson. “We put ourselves in a big hole, we understood that. We’re not doing anything different, we’ve still got the same principles, the same offense we’ve been working on since Day One, except now we’re just executing. The balls are starting to fall in the net, and when they aren’t falling in the net, we’re not hanging our head as much. We’re just ‘Get it next time.’”
Despite the scoreboard at the end and the raucous crowd, the game had a very different feel early. The Rush scored twice in the first two minutes on goals by Robert Church and Mark Matthews before Mark Messenger tacked on their third just 5:11 into the game. The 3-0 lead, the memory of the losing streak fresh in everyone’s minds, and Sasketchewan’s record as the best team in the NLL weighed heavily in the BCA.
Heavy for everyone except for the Knighthawks.
“It’s been a bit of their M.O.,” Hasen said. “We’ve watched them a bit. They come out hot. Tonight was no different. They came out firing, but we just had to weather the storm and get our legs under us. Once one went in, a couple more went in, we just kept going from there.”
“It was ‘Let’s go out there and continue to do what we to do,’” Jamieson said. “Let’s continue to swing the ball, let’s continue shoot off the swings and run our offense.”
Then the goals started to fall. Kyle Jackson got his first goal of the game with just over six minutes remaining in the first. Josh Currier cut the lead to one less than two minutes later. Then Scott Campbell tied the game with just over a minute remaining in transition.
The game could have take a turn for the worse when Ryan Dilks scored with 41 seconds remaining in the first. Then Sasketchewan made it a two-goal game only 38 seconds into the second quarter when Matthews scored his second of the night. He finished the night with four points (3+1) to lead the Rush.
Then Rochester went on their biggest run of the night, scoring five goals in the span of nine minutes. Joe Resetarits got the scoring started less than a minute after Matthews’ second, then Jamieson scored twice sandwiched around Quinn Powless’ lone goal of the night before Brad Gillies finished the run in transition. Jamieson was a huge part of the Knighthawks’ offensive success on the night, finishing with seven points (3+4) to lead all scorers.
Rochester held an 8-5 lead with just over four minutes left in the half when Jerome Thompson scored his lone goal of the night to stop the run. The game turned into a seesaw affair as neither team could string together more than two goals at a time the rest of the way. It seemed every time the Rush scratched their way back within one, the Knighthawks had an answer to keep the lead. That is, until late in the fourth when Rochester scored four straight to ice the game.
“We started well,” Keenan said. “Then we just couldn’t get another run after that. We’d get within one numerous times, and we just couldn’t get a stop, get a defensive stop at the other end. Then we started making some mistakes and pushing things too hard, trying to do too much.”
Yet even with Rochester riding high after two straight wins and offensive explosions, they know just how quickly it can collapse. They have already experienced that after being the toast of the league after winning their first two games of the season. Then came the losing streak. Make no mistake, the Knighthawks are not getting ahead of themselves.
“It’s a roller coaster,” Hasen said. “We were on the wrong side of that big, steep hill. See if we’ll start climbing out of it. . . It’s four. We’ve still got two wins on the wrong side of .500. So we’ve got a long way to go.”
Rochester heads down the I-90 to renew the Thruway rivalry with the Buffalo Bandits on Saturday, February 24 with the season series tied at one game a piece. Sasketchewan returns home to play host to the Calgary Roughnecks that same Saturday.
Three stars as voted by the media:
- Cody Jamieson
- Austin Shanks
- Mark Matthews