Most National Lacrosse League games are decided by scoring runs.
The 2012 NLL Champion’s Cup game was no different Saturday as the Rochester Knighthawks found their stride in the second half for a 9-6 comeback win over the Edmonton Rush.
Knighthawks star forward Cody Jamieson was named the game’s MVP after scoring four goals and adding four assists while goaltender Matt Vinc made 46 saves on 52 shots to help Rochester win the third title in its 18-year history.
“We just stuck with it,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “It was a team game, a team win. Jamieson came up big with a few goals and Vinc and the defence kept them at bay in the second half.”
Edmonton silenced a raucous Rochester crowd early on by opening the scoring just 1:32 into the game — the only goal of the first quarter.
After the Rush built a three-goal lead, Jamieson got Rochester on the board with a diving goal midway through the second to make it 3-1, but Edmonton answered twice to take a 5-1 lead into halftime.
Despite being outshot 31-11 in the first half, Rochester did not panic and used the intermission to regroup with a simple game plan for the final 30 minutes.
“We stress just one goal at a time,” Jamieson said. “Any team game — whether it be hockey, basketball, lacrosse — you get one goal, one basket and you get the mentality like ‘OK, open up the floodgates.“’
The floodgates opened on the Rush in the second half. The Knighthawks rejuvenated the Blue Cross Arena crowd by scoring six unanswered goals to take a 7-5 lead into the fourth quarter, a lead they would not relinquish.
“Really, it was kind of two games,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan. “The first half was ours, the second was Rochester’s. It’s always a concern coming into a game that a goalie could steal one and perhaps (Vinc) did tonight. The best way to answer a run is to score and we just weren’t able to.”
Zack Greer scored twice and added two assists for Edmonton, while Rush goaltender Aaron Bold made 26 saves in the losing effort.
“Coach said it — you have to play 60 minutes in these games and we obviously didn’t do that,” Greer said. “I’m proud of our guys, but not the way we wanted to end it.”
Bold held the Knighthawks scoreless for the first 22:13 of the game, but Vinc countered with a 26:22 shutout streak of his own to lead the comeback.
“That’s what championship teams do,” Vinc said. “They find a way to win.”
The Rush, who rebounded from a 2-7 start to the regular season and played all three playoff games on the road, came up just short of a title in their first Champion’s Cup appearance in their seven-year history.
Despite not reaching their ultimate goal, Keenan was optimistic about the direction of the team going forward.
“Look at the group that we have here,” he said. “We’ve got a back-end loaded with under-24-year-olds. With a young athletic group like that, some real good offensive talent mixed in with some veterans, the first overall pick in this year’s draft, and it’s a pretty bright future in Edmonton. There’s no doubt about that.”
Notes: Announced attendance was 9,277... A different NLL team has won the Champion’s Cup in each of the last five seasons... Rochester improved to 3-4 in NLL Championship games, with previous title wins in 1997 and 2007.