Rochester Knighthawks fans knew it wasn’t going to be an ordinary night when Sid Smith opened the scoring just 22 seconds into the game. Smith’s goal sparked a 10-goal first half and the defense limited the Colorado Mammoth to a season-low five goals in a 14-5 win tonight. With the victory, the Knighthawks locked up a berth in the 2015 Champion’s Cup Playoffs.
“It was another good team victory,” said Rochester head coach Mike Hasen. “Our guys did a tremendous job getting off the floor and letting us play five-on-five. When they do that, we’re pretty good. ‘Vno’ (Matt Vinc) was seeing the shots he wants to see and it was a really good team effort.”
Vinc stood tall in goal for the Knighthawks, making 29 saves and allowing just one second-half goal. In fact, the Rochester defense blanked the Mammoth offense for over 41 minutes. Rochester has now limited its opponents to just 14 goals over the last three games.
“Just like last week you just want to get better, especially in a tough April,” said Vinc. “Our offense did a great job getting us going early, and our defense did a great job blocking shots. We are playing pretty good ‘D’ and hopefully we can continue that next week.”
Dan Dawson, who collected his 1,100th career point, led the way with six points (1+5). He became one of seven players in the National Lacrosse League to achieve the milestone.
“It’s just a testament to the organization and the teammates I surrounded myself with,” Dawson said. “I’ve been blessed to play in this league a long time and every game is a gift. That’s how I approach it so I’m just thankful to be playing this long.”
Stephen Keogh scored a season-high four goals, while Jordan Hall, Joe Resetarits and Craig Point each added a goal and two assists. Cody Jamieson had a two point night (1+1) and Joe Walters, Sid Smith and Scott Campbell collected goals in the win.
“Offensively we were moving the ball and my shots were falling tonight,” Keogh said. “It can be anyone’s night on our team with so many good options out there. Hats off to our defense, they let five goals in. We played another great game. We see (Colorado) again next weekend and we know they are going to come out firing so we’ve just got to play a full 60 minutes.”
With an assist on Smith’s goal, Jamieson earned his 400th career point. Keogh connected over six minutes later, which sparked a 4-0 run. Hall then made it 3-0 just 10 minutes into the matchup. Point cashed in to give the Knighthawks their fourth goal before Colorado got two quick ones to make it 4-2 going into the second.
Colorado made it a one-goal game early in the second, but that’s as close as they would get. Rochester broke open the game, scoring the next nine goals. Dawson’s first of the game came as he dove across the crease and the ball bounced through the five-hole of Dillon Ward. The Knighthawks continued on their run with goals from Walters, Keogh, Jamieson and Sullivan to close out the half with a 10-4 lead.
Scoring slowed down for the second half, while the defense and Vinc took charge, blocking shot after shot. Keogh cashed in on the lone third-quarter goal to complete the hat trick at 3:59 of the third.
Keogh put up a highlight-reel goal that again beat Ward 7:20 into the final quarter. Campbell’s goal came just 13 seconds later to give the Knighthawks a 10-goal lead, the largest of the night. Vinc held the Mammoth scoreless for nearly 28 minutes in the second half.
“We’re a veteran group of guys who take pride in keeping the ball out of the net,” said Campbell. “That’s been the result of the past three games. We’ve gotten tighter and are sticking to our principals.”
The Knighthawks will be heading out west for a two-game weekend, starting in Colorado on Friday, April 17th. The team will then head to Vancouver the next night to take on the Stealth.
“The playoffs are step one,” Dawson said. “It’s a longer season with 18 games now. Now we want to handle home floor. We can control that now and we are going to have to win. We’ve got a long road trip next weekend and that’s our next step.”