NLL: Knighthawks’ streak up to four

Tony Malcom of the Vancouver Warriors and Brad Gillies of the Rochester Knighthawks. (Photo: Micheline V/Rochester Americans)

Saturday night the Rochester Knighthawks (6-11) not only defeated the Vancouver Warriors (5-12) 18-6, but they also eliminated them from playoff contention in front of 5,376 fans at the Blue Cross Arena. It was the Knighthawks’ fourth win in a row.

Right from the start the Knighthawks jumped all over goalie Aaron Bold and the Warriors. Mike Burke and Austin Shanks both scored in the first 43 seconds of the game. Tony Malcom would get Vancouver on the board, but Kyle Jackson and Ryan Benesch then scored 52 seconds apart to chase Bold in favor of Eric Penney.

Rochester continued the onslaught with two more goals before Logan Schuss got his first of the night for Vancouver, but the Knighthawks took a 6-2 lead into the second quarter.

The second quarter was much like the first. Burke and Benesch scored three goals in 1:12 (Benesch twice in 14 seconds)  to open a seven-goal lead as you could see any chance of a Vancouver playoff berth being taken away. Jackson would find rope shorthanded and Rochester would be up 10-4 at the half.

Goalie Warren Hill, riding a three game winning streak since getting the nod to be the starter, was stellar in his play once again, and seems to be making the coaching staff’s job very easy on who to protect in the upcoming expansion draft.

Rochester’s head coach Mike Hasen has been impressed with Hill and stated he is one of the big reasons for the teams winning streak: “He has been focused, and he is making a lot of big saves for us. He is doing a great job of giving us a chance to win every night.”

The third quarter started with another Rochester run. Chris Boushy picked up a rebound and scored a backhand while shorthanded, but it was Ryan Benesch’s fourth goal of the night and sixth point that was even bigger. With Benesch’s power play goal at 4:43 he collected his 1,000 career point. Twenty-five seconds later Jake Withers won a battle along the boards after a faceoff and took it to the net himself to put the Knighthawks up by nine. Keegan Bal would get the lone goal for Vancouver who trailed 13-5.

In the fourth it wasn’t much different. Rochester outscored Vancouver 5-1 in the quarter. Burke would collect a hat trick at 7:21 with the assist going to Cody Jamieson; that assist was Jamieson’s 700th career NLL point in his nine-year career.

Another big story here was the Knighthawks special teams. They were on FIRE! While going 4-8on the man advantage, the Knighthawks also scored three shorthanded goals on the night.

Jake Withers dominated the faceoff going 27-31 with a game high 15 loose balls. As a team the Knighthawks picked up 114 loose balls to Vancouver’s 77.

Warren Hill went the distance for the Knighthawks and stopped 53 of 59 shots faced.

Eric Penney, who came in in relief at 4:52 of the first quarter, stopped 44 of 58 shots faced.

Kyle Jackson (4G/6A), Ryan Benesch (5G/4A), Mike Burke (3G/3A) and Cody Jamieson (1G/6A) led the Knighthawks’ offense.

Keegan Bal and Logan Schuss scored twice each for the Warriors.

The Knighthawks will close out their 25th anniversary season with a game this Saturday versus the New England Black Wolves. This will also be the final time this group of players will be considered Knighthawks, as the franchise will be moving to Halifax to be known as the Halifax Thunderbirds. The Rochester Knighthawks will be a new expansion team to start the 2019-20 season.