The Rochester Knighthawks couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity to take first place in the NLL Eastern Division.
Rochester and the Toronto Rock played a home-and-home series this past weekend and if the Knighthawks could have won both games, they would have taken the top spot in the East.
Instead it was the Rock that once again proved why they are the best team in the league and the favorite to win the Champions Cup this season with a 10-5 victory on Friday in Toronto and a 13-6 win on Saturday in Rochester, N.Y.
Toronto head coach Troy Cordingley said he thought Friday’s game at home might have been best his team has played all season.
“I thought we had a real sound game and it might have been the best game this year that we've played,” Cordingley said, whose team remains undefeated at the Air Canada Centre this season. “Our defense was spectacular and offensively, every goal that we scored was well-earned and Kasey Beirnes was on fire tonight. He came with a bit of a chip of his shoulder and the ball was finally dropping for him.”
Beirnes was benched by Cordingley in the Rock’s previous contest on Feb. 12 against Calgary, but he made his mark on Friday, scoring five goals in the contest.
Also on Friday, Toronto goaltender Bob Watson reached another milestone as he earned his 100th career victory. He made his 6,000th career save in the Rock’s 12-9 win against the Knighthawks in Week 2.
“It's been a long career, very successful career,” said Watson after Friday’s game. “I'm very proud of the teams that I've played with and the guys that I've played with and I can't do it without them but definitely cherishing the moment right now.”
The Toronto defense played solid in the second half of Friday’s contest, only allowing one goal. They continued where they left off on Saturday as the K-Hawks were only able to find the back of the net once in each of the first three quarters.
Rochester’s defense was up to the challenge as well to start Saturday’s game, keeping Toronto to one goal in the first quarter. However the Rock’s offense then started to light the lamp in the second and third, scoring five goals in both quarters.
In Saturday’s game, Garrett Billings and Stephan Leblanc both finished with three goals and two assists for the Rock while Blaine Manning finished with a six point night, picking up one goal and five assists.
Mike Accursi led Rochester on Saturday with two goals while teammate Shawn Evans finished with one goal and two assists.
Toronto now has a one game advantage over second place Buffalo in the East and sports a league best, 7-2 record. Rochester on the other hand falls to .500 with a 4-4 mark and a tie for fourth place in the division.
After Friday’s game, Rochester head coach Mike Hasen stressed that his team needs to step up their play in their final eight games.
“I think we have to have a bit of a gut-check here and guys have to step up and play their roles,” Hasen said. “Guys just took it upon themselves to do things on their own. It can't come from me. It’s got to come from them and they have to listen to what we're saying and they've got to perform the way we think it's going to work cause when we do it, it works so it's on them.”
The Knighthawks will have the chance to respond next Saturday as they’ll host the Edmonton Rush at 7:35 p.m. The Rock will also be in action on Saturday as they’ll be in Philly taking on the Wings. On Sunday, many of the Rochester and Toronto players will head to NLL All Star at the Turning Stone Resort in New York. The game will be televised live on Versus at noon.
Here is a look at the other five games from Week 7 in the National Lacrosse League.
Roughnecks Take Season Series Over Rush
As the Edmonton Rush’s last second shot hit off the post and fell to the ground, so did the hearts of their fans.
The Rush had several good opportunities the final minute against their in-province rival, the Calgary Roughnecks, but they weren’t able to capitalize as the Riggers won 12-11 on Sunday at Rexall Place in Edmonton.
Calgary (5-3) wins the season series over Edmonton (2-6) after picking of two victories in a home-and-home series versus the Rush on Jan. 28 and 29.
Jeff Shattler led Calgary in scoring with three goals and five assists while teammate Curtis Dickson also had a three goal game. Scott Evans led Edmonton on the score sheet with five goal and one assist while Rush goaltender Matt Disher made 43 saves in net.
The Roughnecks and Rush will meet one more time during the regular season, on Mar. 19 in Calgary.
Big Second Half Leads Swarm to Victory in Denver
The Colorado Mammoth played a great 15 minutes. Unfortunately it was the first 15 minutes.
Colorado took a 4-1 lead after the first quarter, but the Minnesota Swarm bounced back and scored 11 of the next 17 goals in the game to take the 12-10 victory on Sunday at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
“We created opportunities,” said Colorado head coach Bob Hamley after the game. “We played good positional defense at times, but we are going to stick together.”
John Grant Jr. and Dan Carey each finished with two goals and two assists in the game while Brian Langtry finished with a five point night, picking up one goal and four assists for the Mammoth
Ryan Benesch led Minnesota in scoring with five goals and one assist while all star goaltender Nick Patterson had another phenomenal game in net, making 47 saves.
Tempers flared at the end of the second quarter with a miniature “brawl” and a few fights between the two clubs. Colorado’s Langtry, Mac Allen, and Cliff Smith and Minnesota’s Travis Hill, Rory Smith, and Shayne Bennett received penalties for their involvement and spent most of the third quarter in the penalty box.
These two teams will play again at the Pepsi Center on Mar. 4 and at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. on Apr. 23.
Stealth Embarrass Mammoth
The Colorado Mammoth might have had better luck winning Friday’s game from their hotel rooms.
The Washington Stealth delivered the Mammoth their worst loss in team history in a 20-7 beat down at Comcast Arena in Everett, Wash.
“Our goaltending was great and our offense put the ball in the net,” said Stealth forward Luke Wiles, who had two goals and four assists in the game. “You’re not going to get much better than that. That’s a full 60 minutes by us, which is great.”
Four Washington (4-5) players picked up hat tricks in the game: Jeff Moleski, Rhys Duch, Joel Dalgarno, and Lewis Ratcliff.
Alex Gajic led Colorado in scoring with three goals and one assist.
The loss was the Mammoth’s fifth in a row while the victory was the Stealth’s first after losing two straight.
Sanderson Leads Blazers over the Swarm
The Minnesota Swarm knows how to beat Western Division opponents. Now they just need to find a way to beat the Eastern Division teams.
Minnesota lost their fourth game of the season to an Eastern club as the Boston Blazers won 14-11 on Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
The game was tied at halftime, but Josh Sanderson led the Blazers (6-3) with two goals and one assist in the second half as Boston outscored the Swarm 5-2 in the final 30 minutes.
Sanderson finished with four goals in the game while teammate Kevin Buchanan picked up three red lighters and one assist.
The Swarm were led in scoring by Callum Crawford who finished with two goals and four assists. Aaron Wilson, Jamie Shewchuk, and Andrew Watt also had two goal nights for the Swarm.
After playing three straight against the East, Minnesota will now play three games in a row versus Western teams. The Swarm have two more games against Eastern squads, Mar. 27 against Buffalo and Apr. 16 against Philadelphia.
Wings Enact Revenge on Bandits
The Philadelphia Wings got the revenge that they wanted and needed.
Philadelphia’s Drew Westervelt scored with under two minutes left to give the Wings the go-ahead goal and the 10-9 victory over the Buffalo Bandits on Saturday at HSBC Arena in Buffalo.
Westervelt added four assists to his game winning goal while teammate Athan Iannucci also had a good game, finishing with three goals and three assists. Dan Hardy also finished with a hat trick for the Wings.
John Tavares and Tracey Kelusky both had five point nights for Buffalo with Tavares finishing with one goal and four assists and Kelusky finishing with two goals and three assists.
The Wings and Bandits (4-3) played last week in Philadelphia with Buffalo taking the 16-7 victory.
Philadelphia’s win this week improves their record to 4-4 on the season and a tie for fourth place in the East with Rochester.
The Wings’ next game will be against the Eastern Division leading Toronto Rock on Feb. 26 while Buffalo will host Rochester on the same day.