NLL Divisional Finals Turning Points
A disallowed goal in Rochester and a late goal in Calgary helped create a Knighthawks-Stealth championship game.
The NLL division finals offered up high drama.
In Rochester, the Knighthawks led 3-0 after one quarter but they were only up 7-6 by the start of the fourth, and Minnesota was coming on strong. The Swarm seized a 9-7 lead on goals by Ryan Benesch, Kiel Matisz and Shayne Jackson in an offensive foray of just one minute 40 seconds.
Eight minutes remained.
Matt Gibson darted from behind the Rochester net to the side of the crease to bounce a ball past goalie Matt Vinc and into the far side of the net to make it 10-7. But wait. A challenge flag flew off the Rochester bench. Video of the play was reviewed. The goal, which would have been a fifth consecutive Minnesota goal, was disallowed. Why? Replays showed Gibson outside the crease in the strides he took just before shooting. Perhaps he had stepped into the crease before making his scoring move.
Here's the part of rule 67.3 that might have been applied to Gibson: ''An attacking player who is not in possession of the ball and is in contact in the opposing crease and then exits the crease and is the first to receive a pass immediately after exiting the crease is in violation and possession shall be awarded to the non-offending team.''
Now it is 9-7 again, and the Knighthawks immediately erupt for five consecutive goals in five minutes 24 seconds. Johnny Powless started the rally off a great pass from Joe Walters, Craig Point fires a bullet into a top corner of the net behind Tyler Carlson, Cody Jamieson picks a bottom corner from the middle of the zone, Point dives across the crease to score and defenseman Jim Purves caps the rally by beating a besieged Carlson with less than two minutes left. Benesch adds a too-late goal for a 12-10 final.
It was a glorious finish for the Knighthawks and a deeply disappointing turn of events for the Swarm. Had coach Mike Hasen not opted to challenge the Gibson goal, things might have turned out differently.
In Calgary, Washington led 2-0 after one quarter and 8-5 at halftime. Tim Henderson's sidearm shot from a distance makes it 9-5. Jon Harnett is penalized for cross-checking Rhys Duch in the back after a stoppage in play and Dean Hill scores on the power play to make it 10-5.
It looks as if the Stealth had this one in the bag. But wait. Curtis Dickson scores three in two minutes 56 seconds and, all of a sudden, the Roughnecks are right back into the thick of things. It is 13-13 when Dickson fires in his seventh of the night at 5:36 of the fourth quarter.
We would be talking about those three straight Dickson goals as the game's turning point if Duch hadn't won it for the Stealth by breaking across the middle of the Calgary zone and whipping a sidearm shot past goalie Mike Poulin at 8:06. The Stealth defense and goalie Tyler Richards yielded nothing more in a 14-13 thriller. The only turning point that mattered was that last goal.
So here it is: two U.S. teams will play for the Champion's Cup in a Canadian city.
The Stealth's Comcast Arena home in the Seattle-region burg of Everett is unavailable Saturday. It is booked for the youth religious gathering Acquire The Fire. So, the NLL final will be played in Langley, British Columbia, which is within Metro Vancouver. The Langley Events Centre has 5,500 seats and most are expected to be filled. Comcast has 8,300 seats but more than one-half are never filled.
The LEC is home to the Langley Thunder of the Western Lacrosse Association. Lewis Ratcliff and Athan Iannucci of the Stealth play their summer lacrosse there, as does Joel McCready of the Knighthawks, so at least three players on the green carpet Saturday will feel at home.
Ironically, Ratcliff never expected to get into a game at LEC this year because he is suspended for two years from playing for the Thunder after a doping violation stemming from a September 2012 sample taken during the Canadian senior championship in Peterborough, Ontario.