The Seals offense was firing on all cylinders Saturday night as they handed the Knighthawks their ninth loss of the season 19-6. The game saw the most complete effort from San Diego this season and it provided them with a third straight victory.
The San Diego performance was aided greatly by fantastic goalie play and a defense that looked like they had a fire lit under them. Frank “The Tank” Scigliano stood on his head, allowing only a single second half goal as he posted an impressive 25 saves with just 6 goals allowed. Much of that credit should be attributed to the play of the Seals defensemen across the board, who were eating up the Rochester forwards on nearly every possession, with San Diego out loose balling the Knighthawks 85-66. The final tally for shots on goal was Seals 65, Knighthawks 33.
Those figures alone could adequately sum up the night. This one was all Seals. The home team had Pechanga Arena roaring as they shot out to an 11 goal first half and held the Rochester team virtually scoreless in the second. Their 19 goals mark the highest scoring effort ever for the young Seals expansion team, and just 6 goals allowed is simultaneously the best defensive performance they have put together to date.
“I think it was the first time all season where we had all seven guys really feeling it tonight,” said general manager and head coach Patrick Merrill. “It took a lot of pressure off our defense and Frankie, but I think our defense and goaltending was really solid as well. It was a great 60-minute effort and it feels nice to get to .500, especially here at home. Hopefully we can go on a bit of a run. We’re going to need it to get into the playoffs.”
Rochester forward and former Seal, Turner Evans (1g, 1a), got the party started with a quick goal for the Knighthawks, nudging them out to a 1-0 lead just a few minutes into the game. It wouldn’t last.
Seals forward Zack Greer (3g, 5a) found an answer, popping open off of a textbook pick and roll to bury the look he got from a dodging Connor Fields (3g, 3a), tying the game 1-1.
The pretty lacrosse continued as the Seals whipped the ball along the perimeter with speed and precision, shrinking the Rochester defense. The result was an open Austin Staats (2g, 5a), who stepped into an easy time and room shot, giving the Seals their first and only lead of the night at 2-1.
Forward Connor Fields was a facilitator early, dodging down the right wing and drawing a slide before hitting Casey Jackson (5g, 2a) cross crease for an easy finish, extending the lead to two.
The Knighthawks had no intention of going quietly, however, as forward Curtis Knight found a screen and used it to sneak one past Scigliano, quickly bringing the game back within one at 3-2.
Connor Fields got right back down to business, finding Jackson again, and this time behind the net on a feed that looked more like a shot than a pass. Jackson handled the heater and took flight, dunking on Rochester goalie and former Seal, Ryan Hartley, from behind to make the game 4-2.
Austin Staats would finish another one less than a minute later, pulling down a rebound off the back wall before bouncing it in to extend the lead further.
With just seconds remaining in the first quarter, assistant captain and defenseman Cam Holding got called for a hold on a Curtis Knight breakaway, giving the Rochester forward a penalty shot.
Fortunately for Cam, “The Tank” went big in net, refusing to bite on Knight’s dip and dunk as he turned the shot away defiantly, bringing the first quarter to a close. The score 5-2 Seals.
The second quarter brought with it a Rochester pulse as forward Holden Cattoni (1g, 1a) found the back of the net on the power play and cut the San Diego lead to two.
Seals forward Wesley Berg (2g, 6a) answered immediately, powerfully backing down his defender on the wing before turning and bouncing one in to make the game 6-3.
Forward Jeremy Noble (1g, 2a) would add another, sniping the top right corner from range for a shorthanded goal just moments later.
The Knighthawks tried their best to keep pace with the blazing San Diego team, adding two more goals from Curtis Knight and Cam Milligan (1g, 1a) respectively, but the Seals offense was too much to handle and the first half came to a close with a score of 11-5 Seals.
The second was a landslide. Rochester would only score once more, the goal coming early in the third quarter on a diving crease finish from forward Ryland Rees (1g, 2a).
Notably, the second half saw Seals star Casey Jackson log his third five-goal game of the season. He has only played in six games after recently returning to the active roster from injury.
“I was nervous the first couple games to get my swing back,” said Jackson. “I didn’t have a training camp or anything, I basically had one practice. I’m starting to get back into the feel of things. It feels pretty good, especially when you win.”
Another big moment came in the third quarter as defenseman Matt Sykes snuck a bouncer past Ryan Hartley in transition to score his first career goal.
Before all was said and done in the fourth, Seals defenseman Garret McIntosh and a frustrated Knighthawk in Tyler Biles would drop the gloves and go at it. The result was five minute offsetting penalties for both.
The fight mattered little to the outcome of a game that finished minutes later in a 19-6 victory for the San Diego Seals.
The Seals travel to Vancouver next week for their third and final (regular season) bout with the Warriors, who currently round out the bottom of the West Division, but are very much still in the mix.