Rochester Headed Back to Champion's Cup
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Rochester Knighthawks will defend their title in the 2013 NLL Championship Game on the road next weekend after beating the visiting Minnesota Swarm with a thrilling 12-10 playoff win in the East Division Final at The Blue Cross Arena on Saturday evening.
The Knighthawks opened the scoring 2:03 into the game and led 3-0 after the first quarter with two goals from Johnny Powless while 2013 NLL Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc stopped all nine shots that he faced, marking the second week in a row that Rochester shut out their opponent in the first quarter.
Minnesota finally got on the board 5:35 into the second quarter with a goal by rookie Kiel Matisz. Callum Crawford followed it up 27 seconds later to make it 3-2 before Craig Point answered 33 seconds after that off a beautiful dodge and behind-the-back pass from Dan Dawson. The teams traded goals before the Swarm's Ryan Benesch and 2013 NLL Transition Player of the Year Jordan MacIntosh scored 16 seconds apart in the final minute of the second quarter to go into halftime with the scored tied 5-5.
Dan Dawson scored 2:24 into the third quarter to regain the lead for Rochester then both goalies held the opposition off the scoresheet for almost 10 minutes until Mike Accursi made it 7-5 with 2:50 left in the quarter before Benesch scored from deep 1:07 later to cut the deficit to 7-6 after 45 minutes of play.
Benesch scored his third of the night almost five minutes into the fourth quarter to tie the game before Matisz netted his second goal to make it 8-7 less than a minute later and give the Swarm their first lead. After a too many men penalty was assessed to the Knighthawks 32 seconds later, Minnesota rookie Shayne Jackson quickly bounced one in off the carpet for the power play goal.
Minnesota's Matt Gibson appeared to have widened their lead to three goals shortly after that but Rochester challenged and the goal was controversially overturned. In a swing of momentum, Powless scored his third goal with 6:38 left before Craig Point got his hat trick goal 55 seconds later to tie the game at 9-9.
With a rejuvenated Rochester crowd on their feet chanting "Let's Go Hawks!", Knighthawks leading scorer Cody Jamieson, who was questionable with a lower body injury suffered during last week's Division Semifinal win, scored with 4:38 remaining to send the fans into a frenzy.
After Swarm defenseman Jeff Gilbert took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Point scored his fourth goal right as the penalty expired to make it 11-9. Knighthawks transition player Jimmy Purves increased the lead to 12-9 just 26 seconds after that. Minnesota scored with 13 seconds left with the game all but decided.
After taking a celebratory lap around their home field, Rochester now will visit the winner of tonight's Washington Stealth at Calgary Roughnecks West Division Final, which starts at 6:30 p.m. ET live on CBS Sports Network.
Despite the disappointing loss in Division Final for the second-straight year, the future is bright for Minnesota as 16 of their 23 players were either rookies or in their second year. The Swarm hold the first overall selection in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft, which they acquired from the Buffalo Bandits via trade, in addition to three more first-round picks.
Notes: An NLL team hasn't won the Champion's Cup in consecutive years since the Toronto Rock won back-to-back championships in 2002 and 2003. A different team has won the title in each of the last five seasons, a streak that will end this year. Rochester has a 3-4 record all-time in championship games with title wins in 1997, 2007 and 2012.