The Rochester Knighthawks (1 – 0) started their 2011 season off on a good note as they defeated the Minnesota Swarm (0 – 1) Saturday night in an 11-10 overtime victory.
The Knighthawks gained the lead early and held on to it for most of the game. The first two goals were scored by two new additions to the Knighthawks roster – Mike Accursi and Pat McCready. Both teams initially took some time to feel each other out as well as build chemistry amongst their own ranks. Each team was able to shake off the rust very quickly, however, and several times the livestream commentators mentioned that they looked like they were in mid-season form.
New Rochester goalie Matt Vinc got off to a bit of a shakey start before turning in an elite-level performance. Vinc seemed to be uncharacteristically stationary in the first quarter. This new style somewhat resembled Pat O’Toole’s method of goaltending which relied more on positioning than the athleticism Vinc is known for. At the start of the second quarter, the “old” Matt Vinc resurfaced and he began to make some incredible stops. He allowed just one goal in the second quarter and only two goals against in the third.
The Swarm benefited from a momentum swing in the fourth quarter with four straight goals, Callum Crawford and Ryan Benesch started the scoring with a goal each. Rookie Cody Jamieson then headbutted a Swarm player halfway through the quarter and received a five minute vacation to the box for his troubles. Mat Giles capitalized on the opportunity and netted a power play goal for the Swarm which gave the team their first lead of the game. Giles then added another power play tally after a Shawn Evans slashing penalty. Suddenly the Hawks were down by two.
Shawn Evans wasn’t going to stand for this and reduced the deficit to just one goal several minutes later. Shawn Williams then tied the game five seconds later off the faceoff. The entire tide of the game had turned in favor of the Knighthawks as the two teams prepared for overtime. After a brief back and forth with Vinc making some key saves, Craig Point scored the game winner after his former team with a controversial goal. The Swarm challenged, alleging he was in the crease. The challenge failed and the Hawks earned their first win of the season.
Shawn Williams (1 G, 5 A) led the Knighthawks in scoring while Craig Point (3 G, 1 A) earned game MVP honors after completing his hat trick with the game winner. Much of the fan focus was on rookie Cody Jamieson. He had a decent NLL debut with two goals on eight shots.
Ryan Benesch (2 G, 3 A) led the Swarm in overall scoring. Andrew Watt (3 G, 1A) also had a notable performance, scoring nearly half the amount of goals he had in all of the 2010 season. Luckily for the Hawks, Aaron Wilson was unusually quiet and managed just two assists with no goals.
Scott Evans did not play as he is serving a one-game suspension left over from a fight with the Washington Stealth in the final game of last season. He and Kyle Laverty, who was also suspended for one game, should be back in the Knighthawks lineup next Saturday in Rochester’s home opener.