The city of San Diego’s first taste of professional indoor lacrosse couldn’t have gone better. The home team San Diego Seals delivered the final blow in what was a back-and-forth thriller down to the final minute, beating the Rochester Knighthawks, 12-10, in the franchise’s debut at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
Tied at 10-10 with 4:54 left to play, 37-year-old veteran Dan Dawson made the best of an excellent feed from another oldie but goodie in Garrett Billings, 32, and found the back of the net from just outside the crease to go up 11-10.
Seals rookie Austin Staats, the 2018 NLL Draft’s first overall pick, put the nail in the coffin just minutes after Dawson’s score. Staats ripped a rocket from the right side of the offensive end and pushed the ball past Rochester’s Angus Goodleaf to pick up a two-goal lead and his fourth goal of the contest with 1:24 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Rochester failed to answer the Seals’ scoring barrage in the waning minutes of regulation, dropping the Knighthawks down to 1-2 and improving San Diego to 2-2 on the year.
The Seals’ offense ran through Staats, Dawson and seventh-year NLL veteran Kyle Buchanan. Staats and the 30-year-old Buchanan shared the team lead in points with five apiece, as Staats added an assist to his four-goal stat sheet while Buchanan finished with two goals and three assists. Dawson fell close behind the duo with four points (3G, 1A).
Staats fed off the energy from what was announced as a crowd of 11,323 at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
“We’ve been working hard this whole week coming up and it showed in how we played tonight,” Staats said. “I grabbed the Seal on the front of my jersey in the fourth quarter to show the fans how much I respected them and enjoyed their presence. It was pretty cool, and it was the loudest arena that I have been to so far.”
Staats improved his team lead in goals and points to 13 and 22, respectively, with his strong performance against Rochester. Buchanan, who had two assists set up Staats goals against the Knighthawks, leads the team with 13 assists through four games.
Dawson, who showed off his veteran prowess backing down Rochester defenders and creating shots for himself all throughout the Seals’ win, also enjoyed the atmosphere brought on by the Seals’ faithful at Pechanga Arena.
“Our introduction to San Diego was phenomenal,” Dawson said. “It was pretty cool being able to show them all what lacrosse is all about. I said it from the get-go, to be a part of something from the foundation up is really special and we had a really emotional special day and it carried on to the game.”
Billings, Adrian Sorichetti and Turner Evans all contributed to the Seals’ 12 points with one goal apiece, and Brodie Merrill and Tor Reinholdt each added two assists despite not finding the back of the net themselves. Sorichetti’s score will stand as the franchise’s first goal at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
Rochester’s Kyle Jackson and Cody Jamieson took the reins on the opposite end, as Jackson led the group in goals with three while Jamieson picked up a team-high six points from five assists and one goal. Cory Vitarelli also added two impressive goals in the opening quarter, the latter of which coming from an assist from seven-year NLL veteran Joe Resetraits that had Vitarelli picking up the score after diving in front of Seals goalie Frank Scigliano from behind the net.
Scigliano’s night wasn’t perfect, but he still logged 38 saves in the contest to improve his season total to 178, which ranks second behind Calgary Roughnecks veteran Christian Del Bianco (183) for the NLL lead.
Having to play a man down to the tune of five power plays didn’t help the Seals’ defense or Scigliano, either. Rochester scored on four of its five power-play opportunities. San Diego, on the other hand, were held scoreless in six power-play opportunities.
The Seals look forward to another home contest this week, as San Diego will play host to Calgary on Friday, Jan. 18 at Pechanga Arena. The Roughnecks held the Seals to just five goals in their win over San Diego north of the border earlier in the season, but all could change with the red-hot Seals now claiming what so far has been quite the homefield advantage.