NLL: Petterson leads Thunderbirds to win in debut game

Clarke Petterson goes for a loose ball near the boards. Halifax Thunderbirds vs Rochester Knighthawks – Scotiabank Center, Halifax, Nova Scotia – December 21, 2019 (Photo: Trevor MacMillan/Halifax Thunderbirds)

Clarke Petterson put on a show in his first NLL game.

The fifth overall pick in the 2019 draft scored a hat trick and added two assists to lift the Halifax Thunderbirds to a 14-11 win over the Rochester Knighthawks.

“It was awesome, playing in the NLL is something that you dream about since you start playing lacrosse. Right since I was two years old,” said Petterson. “That’s why those emotions were really high at the start of the game. But when you get into the game, it’s not ‘oh this is my first NLL goal in my first NLL game,’ it’s ‘I want to do whatever it takes to help my team win.’ If that means scoring the goals, then that’s what you have to do and you don’t really think about all of the outside stuff.”

His first goal was scored 7:18 into the third quarter. He fought off a defender in the exterior of the offensive zone and fired it in. His second goal came four minutes later when he received a pass in the slot and scored. He saved his best for last. He shot the ball from behind his back and managed to score.

“That’s what we expect out of him,” said Halifax’s captain Cody Jamieson. “He was a high draft pick for a reason and we knew what we were getting when we drafted him out of Cornell University.”

Unfortunately for Halifax, they did not score 10 seconds into the game like in the previous game: it took them nine seconds longer. Jamieson ran to the front of the net and shot it into the top corner.

After that, the Knighthawks outplayed the Thunderbirds.

Matt Bennett started the attack for Rochester as the playmaker. He passed the ball to Holden Cattoni in front of the net and Cattoni fired it in. A few minutes later, he passed the ball to Dan Lintner at the side of the net and Lintner scored to give them the lead.

Ryan Benesch for Halifax scored a milestone goal to tie the game. He ran into the slot and Jamieson hit him with a pass. Benesch shot and scored. The goal moves him past Mark Steenhuis for ninth all-time in NLL scoring with 1,014 points. He is 152 points back of Shawn Williams for eighth place.

Lintner and Cory Highfield scored for Rochester to give them a 4-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The lead could have been larger for Rochester as they had many great scoring opportunities but Halifax’s goalie, Warren Hill, made several excellent saves to keep them in the game.

Halifax scored the first goal of the second quarter from Austin Shanks. But Rochester responded with two goals from Shawn Evans and Curtis Knight.

After the game, Jamieson, Petterson and Halifax’s coach, Mike Accursi, thought their team didn’t work hard enough in the first half. That was shown through Evans’ goal.

Evans had the ball in the attacking zone near the boards and managed to run around a Halifax defender without being touched to get himself open to score.

“We weren’t ready to play, they were outworking us,” said Jamieson. “We pride ourselves on not being outworked and (Rochester) did that. I think in the second half we outworked them and let our skill take over.”

Halifax started to wake up after a goal from defender Graeme Hossack. He picked up the ball in the defensive zone and ran down to the other end of the field to score. Jamieson and Stephen Keogh also scored for Halifax to tie the game at six.

Phil Caputo scored late in the half to regain Rochester’s lead.

Keogh for Halifax and Highfield for Rochester scored to start the third quarter.

Then Halifax took over. Thirty seconds after Highfield’s goal, Benesch scored his second of the night. Then Hossack scored his second to give Halifax their first lead since the first goal of the game.

“We’ve had bad third quarters in the past couple of years, so we knew we really wanted to be better in the third,” said Accursi. “So we came out and dictated the play in the way we should have done at the start of the game.”

After that, it was the Clarke Petterson show, with goals sprinkled in between from Keogh and Knight to give Halifax a 13-9 lead early in the fourth quarter. Keogh’s goal gave him the hat trick.

Shawn Evans, Pat Saunders and Cattoni scored late goals for the Knighthawks while Mike Burke scored for the Thunderbirds. Warren Hill also nearly scored on an empty net.

It was the first time the new Knighthawks met the old Knighthawks, now the Thunderbirds.

Cody Jamieson was the first overall pick by the old Knighthawks in 2010 and played there for nine seasons, but he didn’t find it strange playing against the new Rochester team.

“I didn’t even think about that,” said Jamieson. “Throughout the summer before we actually came here, it was a little tough. But (the Knighthawks) rebranded. It is not the same colours, it is not the same logo.”

Outside of Petterson, other big performances of the game for Halifax were Hossack’s two goals, one assist, and 11 loose balls; Ryan Benesch’s two goals and four assists; Steven Keogh’s three goals and two assists; and Jamieson’s two goals and four assists. Warren Hill stopped 32 out of 44 shots.

On Rochester’s side, Curtis Knight, Dan Lintner, Shawn Evans, Holden Cattoni and Cody Highfield all scored two goals. Steve Fryer stopped 30 out of 44 shots.

Halifax moves on to play Buffalo on Dec. 28 in Banditland. Rochester plays Toronto at home on the same day.