December 29, 2013

Vinc Strong in Rochester Opening Win over Swarm

from Press Releases

Two-time defending champions Rochester Opened with a win against Minnesota on Saturday night. (Rochester Knighthawks)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The two-time defending National Lacrosse League champion Rochester Knighthawks shut down the Minnesota Swarm, 8-6, in the season opener at The Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night.

Matt Vinc, the reigning Goaltender of the Year, limited the young Swarm offense to six goals - the fewest Minnesota has scored in a regular season game since a 13-6 loss to Toronto on March 23, 2007. Vinc finished with 45 saves on 51 shots, good enough for a .882 save percentage.

"Tonight was a big one for the defense and 'Vno,'" Joel McCready said. "They played like crazy. 'Vno' stood on his head, and our defense just put up a wall in the second half. Those guys, they get all of the credit for this win."

"I'm kind of spoiled in regard with our top defense," Vinc said. "They give us a chance to win every night. I think today they gave me an opportunity to see the ball early and really feel comfortable. The last five minutes, the offense really took off and just us some momentum and we never looked back."

On an offense with the likes of Dan Dawson and Cody Jamieson, it was McCready who unexpectedly provided the momentum swing the Knighthawks needed to come from behind. Trailing 6-5 midway through the fourth, he scored two consecutive goals 38 seconds apart to put Rochester up by one. He also earned three assists on the night, finishing with five points, second only to Dawson's six (2+4).

McCready, a transition player, found himself taking more shifts on offense due to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and with both Craig Point and Cory Vitarelli scratched for the contest. With fewer players on the bench, McCready's position essentially became forward rather than pushing the ball up the floor from the backend.

"Every game, I'm not sure where I am going to play. Tonight they said I'd play a bit more out the front door," McCready said. "Just wherever they want me I have to fit in. Wherever they need me, I'm going to work my hardest; I'll play in net if they ask me to."

On a night neither offense played to its potential, Minnesota outshot Rochester 51-34, yet was unable to find its groove. The third quarter was the lone bright spot for the Swarm's offense, scoring three unanswered goals to climb ahead 5-4. Callum Crawford, Shayne Jackson and Tyler Hass each scored once in the third and it looked like, at least for a moment, Minnesota may pull away.

"If you look statically, if you keep a team below 10, you typically get the win," Minnesota head coach Joe Sullivan said. "You come into Rochester and you keep Rochester, one of the more dynamic offenses, to eight goals, and you don't get the win. There's problems other places.

"He (Vinc) is a big guy that plays well, and their defense plays with that. You need to turn the corner and come down the pipe at him, which is basically straight on, and get that 50/50 by going left or right. We didn't make him have to guess tonight. We shot to him; we played to his strength."

Rochester took a 2-0 lead in the first quarter while Vinc pitched a shutout. Johnny Powless in gathered a loose ball along the crease and fired it past Swarm goaltender Tyler Carslon for the first goal of the game at 8:07. Less than two minutes later, Joe Walters fired a bounce shot from the outside to take a two-goal advantage.

Up 3-1 in the second quarter, Dawson scored his first of two goals. Slicing through the middle of the defense, he took a quick pass from McCready and dove to avoid the crease to gain a 4-1 lead. Rookie Logan Schuss closed the first half with his first career goal, cutting the deficit to two.

After the Swarm took a 5-4 lead in the third, Dawson scored diving goal across the crease in similar fashion to the one that earned him TSN's top play in the NLL from 2013. Hass's second regained the lead for the Swarm before McCready scored the tying and game-winning pair.

Both teams have a bye week next weekend before returning to action on January 11th. For the back-to-back champions, earning the "W" in Week 1 is a positive step to becoming the first team in NLL history to win three in a row.

"That probably wasn't our prettiest game, but again, we found a way to win," Vinc said. "This year, we need to play well and consistent throughout the full year, and we can't be going into the playoffs at 7-9 or 8-8 because that probably won't get you in. We need to be a more consistent team from start to finish, and today was a good start to that."

On January 11th, the Knighthawks will host the Philadelphia Wings at 7:30 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena. That night, Rochester will induct the newest member into the team's Hall of Fame. Tickets are currently available by calling the Rochester Knighthawks' office at (585) 454-4295.

***

The Minnesota Swarm (0-1) fell victim to a fourth quarter rally which gave the Rochester Knighthawks (1-0) a 8-6 victory in the 2014 season opener Saturday night at the Blue Cross Arena.

Four goals in the final stanza, including two in 38 seconds from T Joel McCready turned a 5-4 Swarm lead on its head in favor of the two-time NLL champion Knighthawks.

Minnesota had plenty of offensive chances throughout the night, but was stymied by the 2013 NLL Goalie of the Year Matt Vinc. Vinc's 45-save outing helped nullify the 51-34 Swarm advantage in shots-on-goal and a 78-60 edge in loose balls. Swarm coach Joe Sullivan said that the issue wasn't with the quantity of scoring chances his team found, it was the quality.

"We took lots of shots, but they were the shots that Vinc wanted," Sullivan explained. "We didn't play to our strengths in shooting down the middle. Instead we shot down the sides and wings, which played right into his angles. He is a big guy who plays well and their defense runs on that."

T Tyler Hass led the Minnesota scoring with a pair of timely goals in transition while F Callum Crawford paced the Swarm attack with three points (1G, 2A). T Kiel Matisz and rookie F Logan Schuss also had strong games, each notching a goal and an assist on the evening.

Crawford and T David Earl grabbed 10 loose balls apiece, while captain Andrew Suitor grabbed nine.

A strong third quarter helped the Swarm turn a 4-2 halftime deficit into a 5-4 lead, starting with Crawford's goal at 3:14 to bring Minnesota within one, after sustaining great pressure to start the frame. Suitor appeared to tie the game at four, but a Knighthawks challenge overturned the goal after it was found that Swarm F Shayne Jackson was in the crease.

Jackson was quick to erase his error as he tied things up himself soon afterward. Hass connected on his first of the day at 12:23 of the third to give the Swarm their first lead of the day.

The tightly-fought defensive affair with all the feel of a playoff game started as a goaltenders' duel, with both Vinc and Minnesota's Tyler Carlson making several key stops in the early going. It took over eight minutes for Rochester's Johnny Powless to open the game's scoring, when he beat Carlson at the net mouth on a broken play. Powless also scored the last goal of the game, adding an insurance marker to push the Knighthawks lead to a pair.

While Rochester received strong offensive performances from McCready and Powless, none were greater than Dan Dawson's six points (2G, 4A). The 13th year forward assisted on each of the Knighthawks' first three goals, while scoring the next two himself.

Coming off of an injury shortened 2013 season, Suitor was pleased at the state of his body after his first game back from an ACL injury in February, while keeping the loss in perspective.

"The legs felt perfect, you can't duplicate the training that you do in lacrosse but all-in-all tonight was a tough outcome and we need to move forward," Suitor said. "We're going to use this as a measuring stick. That's the same lineup that won the championship last season, and we have five or six new faces in our room. We just need to keep growing as a team and family and move on."

Minnesota will look to bounce back in two weeks when they visit the Vancouver Stealth on Jan. 11. The Swarm will return to kick off their 10th season at The Hive when they take on Philadelphia on Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. CT. Swarm fans looking to lock up 2014 Season Tickets can take advantage of a Buy 2, Get 2 at 25% offer. By purchasing two season tickets at full price, fans can add an additional two tickets for 25% off. Call 1-888-667-9276 for purchasing information.


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