NLL Notebook: Knighthawks Win Second Straight Against NLL-Best Rush

PHOTO COURTESY OF NLL

Rochester Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc had 43 saves to help his team beat the Saskatchewan Rush for the second time this season.


The Rochester Knighthawks have defeated No. 1 Saskatchewan for a second time and will be the only NLL team to go undefeated against the Rush this season.

Rookie Austin Shanks scored five goals and goaltender Matt Vinc and his defense corps were outstanding in a 13-10 road win Saturday that shot the Knighthawks up from last place to second in the NLL East.

“We just keep battling back and proving we are a good team,” said Shanks, whose 21 goals are most by any rookie.

Defenseman Ian Llord was a human shield blocking shots to aid Vinc. One ball ricocheted off his helmet.

“That’s been the makeup of our defense for a few years now with guys buying in and soaking up shots,” Vinc said. “It epitomizes the way we play as a team. We battle for one another. It’s contagious. Llordy usually gets us going and it’s nice to see the other guys follow suit.”

Another rookie, Eric Fannell, registered his first three-goal game and Joe Resetarits had two goals and five assists in front of an announced crowd of 14,811. The win was the fifth in the last six games for Rochester, 7-7.

“Any win right now in this stretch is a big win,” said Cody Jamieson, who assisted on five goals to reach the 600-point milestone. “It wasn’t so much that we were facing the Rush. It’s that we were fighting for our playoff lives.”

Rare Home Loss

Saskatchewan was down 11-6 in the third quarter, rallied to within 11-10 with 4:41 remaining, and fell just short. The NLL West leaders hurt themselves when, after getting within one, they were penalized for having too many men on the floor and relinquished a decisive power-play goal with 2:51 remaining.

“Disappointed, obviously,” captain Chris Corbeil said when asked for his reaction to the loss. “We’ve got Colorado right on our heels and we felt we owed Rochester one after they beat us earlier this year so it’s disappointing we didn’t come out with a better effort.”

In their third season in Saskatoon, the Rush now are 22-6 at home including regular-season and playoff games. Four of the losses were in overtime. Before Rochester’s win, the Rush hadn’t lost a home game in regulation time since a 13-11 Vancouver win on Jan. 15, 2016.

Despite the loss, the teams closest to the 11-3 Rush, Colorado and Calgary, also lost so the Rush remain safely in first in the NLL West.

All in the Family

Brothers Dan Dawson, 36, and Paul Dawson, 32, were opponents in an NLL game Saturday for the first time since April 9, 2011, when Dan played for Boston and Paul was with Philadelphia. Both played for Philadelphia in 2012 and both were with Rochester from 2013 until Dan was traded Feb. 26 to Saskatchewan. Big brother picked up an assist to become the fifth player to reach 1,300 in a career.







Toronto First

Toronto, 7-6, moved up to first in the NLL East from second with a 17-14 win in Calgary on Saturday.

The Rock led 6-1 after one quarter in Calgary but the score was 11-11 late in the third when Curtis Dickson scored his fourth goal and surpassed 600 career points. A solid fourth, with Phil Caputo scoring twice and Rob Hellyer getting his third of the game, put the Rock back in front as most fans among the 12,097 groaned.

“It’s an encouraging thing,” head coach Matt Sawyer said of his team’s grit. “We are always stressing to just stick with it and be committed to what makes us successful. There were opportunities for us to start feeling sorry for ourselves but we just stuck with it and came out and had a real good second half.”

Can the Rock hold onto first place?

Here’s what they have left: Friday vs. Colorado, April 8 at Georgia, April 13 vs. Rochester, April 21 at Buffalo, April 28 at Colorado.

Second Chances

Vaughn Harris is making the most of his second chance.

Selected 15th overall by Calgary in 2016, the 5-foot-10 Six Nations forward got into only two games with the Roughnecks last season and Buffalo got him in a December trade for a paltry fifth-round 2018 pick. And there he was in the Bandits dressing room Friday night being presented with the team’s championship belt for scoring four goals and assisting on five in a 20-7 victory at New England. Announced attendance was 5,378.

It just goes to show that, put in the right place at the right time, a spare part on one team can be a key cog on another. In 10 games with Buffalo, Harris has 14 goals and 12 assists, and he’s become the team’s main faceoff man.

The win, which followed four consecutive losses, gave Buffalo, 7-7, the season-series standings tiebreaker that would break a tie should it finish with the same win-loss record as New England.

Club Record

Josh Byrne has set a Buffalo club record for most single-season points by a rookie. The 23-year-old forward from New Westminster, B.C., via Hofstra’s NCAA program had a goal and three assists in the win at New England, upping his totals to 20 goals and 31 assists for a rookie-best 51 points in 14 games.

Lost Weekend

The Black Wolves, 6-7, dropped from first to fifth in the NLL East in playing as if they had suddenly developed a group inferiority complex. A 20-7 home loss to Buffalo and a 17-12 defeat at Georgia dropped them to 6-7. Add it up: 37 goals allowed.

The lopsided loss to Buffalo was one of the worst 60 minutes of lacrosse by any NLL team this season. The Black Wolves were only down 7-4 early in the third quarter but they then allowed the Bandits 12 consecutive goals. It was a total collapse. On power plays, Buffalo was 7-for-10 and New England 0-for-4. Buffalo won the loose balls count 98-72. Buffalo outshot New England 58-47.

It was the same story in Georgia as the Swarm had a 63-42 advantage in shots on goal and prevailed 78-62 in picking up loose balls.

The only tidbit from the Black Wolves’ lost weekend with a positive vibe was Callum Crawford scoring his 300th goal.

Coming on Strong

In evening its record at 7-7 with its 17-12 win over New England in front of a reported crowd of just over 5,000, Georgia looked a lot like the squad that won the championship last June. Lyle Thompson has been especially impressive this month. Thompson, Shayne Jackson and Randy Staats scored three goals each.

“We played aggressive on picks and had some really good looks,” head coach Ed Comeau said.

The four remaining Swarm games: April 8 vs. Toronto, April 14 at Saskatchewan, April 28 vs. Vancouver, April 29 at New England.

Stealth Get a Win

Vancouver, 2-12, is last overall but deserved an A for effort after ending an eight-game losing streak with a 13-12 win at Colorado after John Grant Jr.’s No. 24 was raised to the Pepsi Center ceiling Saturday night. The Stealth broke a 12-12 tie when a shot by Pat Saunders changed direction off the stick of Mammoth defender Jordan Gilles and eluded goalie Dillon Ward with 1:48 remaining. Eric Penney got the goaltending win despite Colorado’s 56-44 advantage in shots on goal in front of 15,541 spectators.

“I got a lucky bounce to score the game winner,” Saunders said.

Scoring Race

Saskatchewan’s Mark Matthews remains first with (25G, 62A) 87 points, Buffalo’s Dhane Smith is second with (32G, 53A) 85, Saskatchewan’s Robert Church is third with (38G, 45A) 83, Rochester’s Joe Resetarits is fourth with (28G, 51A) 79 and Toronto’s Rob Hellyer is fifth with (27G, 49A) 76.

Classic Explanation

Referee Todd Labranche @nllref12 in announcing offsetting fourth-quarter penalties to Zack Greer and Chris O’Dougherty during the Vancouver-Colorado game: “These two were clearly having issues with each other, could not restrain themselves, so we’re going to give them two minutes to think about what they’ve done.”            

WEEK 17

Four games are on tap. Colorado goes east for two.

FRIDAY

COLORADO (9-4) at TORONTO (7-6) 7:30 p.m. ET

This is the Twitter game of the week.

It will be the first of two meetings. They’ll close out the season April 28 in Denver. They met once last season and Colorado won 14-11 in Toronto.

Colorado had a five-game winning streak halted when it lost 13-12 at home to Vancouver on Saturday, while Toronto’s 17-14 win in Calgary moved into first place in the NLL East.

“We have to keep the intensity up and play desperate,” says forward Rob Hellyer.

Toronto is ranked second on offense and fourth on defense, while Colorado is sixth on offense and first on defense.

Colorado is 5-1 on the road and Toronto is 3-4 at home.

SATURDAY

COLORADO at ROCHESTER (7-7) 7:30 P.M. ET

Assistant coach and former player Mike Accursi will be inducted into the Knighthawks Hall of Fame during a pre-game ceremony.

This will be the only meeting this season. Colorado beat Rochester 13-7 in Denver last season.

Rochester is coming off a 13-10 win in Saskatchewan and will be awaiting a bus of Mammoth players motoring in from Toronto. After this one, the Knighthawks have three games remaining. They’ll play Buffalo, Toronto and New England. They have already lost the season series to Toronto and to New England. They won the season series against Georgia and lead Buffalo 2-1.

Rochester is ranked third in both offense and defense. Rochester is 4-3 at home.

NEW ENGLAND (6-7) at BUFFALO (7-7) 7:30 p.m. ET

The Black Wolves dropped from first to fifth in the NLL East when they lost 20-7 at home to Buffalo and 17-12 in Georgia during the weekend.

This will be the third and final meeting. Buffalo won 18-13 at New England on Feb. 9 and 20-7 at New England on Saturday so has already won the season series.

New England is ranked eighth on both offense and defense and is ninth and last on power plays. Buffalo is fourth on offense and seventh on defense. New England is 3-3 on the road and Buffalo is 3-3 at home.

CALGARY (5-8) at VANCOUVER (2-12) 10 p.m. ET

This will be the third of four meetings. Calgary beat the Stealth 15-12 on Dec. 15 and 20-12 on Feb. 16, both at home. They’ll play at the Langley Events Centre again on April 21.

“We are two teams that are battling hard and we both need a win so it’s going to be a good game,” Stealth coach Jamie Batley said. “Our guys know that we have turned a corner the last four games and we are excited to come back home.”

Calgary is coming off a 17-14 home loss to Toronto, while Vancouver won 13-12 at Colorado on Saturday.

Calgary is seventh on offense and fifth on defense. Vancouver is ninth and last in both offense and defense. Calgary is 1-4 on the road and Vancouver is 0-6 at home. If the Stealth lose, it will be mathematically impossible for them to catch Calgary.

BYES: Georgia (7-7), Saskatchewan (11-3).

Attendance

Average attendance is up slightly for New England, Georgia and Vancouver home games and down in the home arenas of the other six teams in comparison to 2017 season-ending numbers.

Time Travel

APRIL 12, 2008: Athan Iannucci scored three goals in a 15-14 loss to Minnesota, giving the Philadelphia forward 63 on the season to break Gary Gait’s single-season record of 61. Iannucci went on to finish with 71 goals. Dhane Smith broke his record by scoring 72 in 2016.

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