The Rochester Knighthawks are heading back to the Champion’s Cup Finals, following a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory in the mini-game. Cory Vitarelli opened the closed the scoring Saturday night on one of the most exciting nights of lacrosse in the Knighthawks’ 20 seasons.
“I got a step and had a lane to the net. I just threw it high and it caught the top corner,” said Vitarelli. “It’s nice to score one like that. The team battled all the way through and that’s a big win for us.”
The Knighthawks forced the decisive 10-minute game after defeating the Buffalo Bandits 13-8 in Game Two of the East Division Finals. The Knighthawks struck first on a goal by Vitarelli.
After a 3-0 Buffalo run, Rochester responded with a three-goal run of their own to take a 4-3 lead. Goals from Johnny Powless and two from Dan Dawson helped the Knighthawks regain the lead. Buffalo got one back to tie the contest at four in the first.
The Knighthawks dominated the second quarter, reeling off five straight goals to take a 9-5 lead. Cody Jamieson scored two straight to start the run, then Powless finished his hat trick with two consecutive goals. Joel McCready tallied the ninth Knighthawk goal of the game after driving hard to the net. Stephen Keogh scored at 12:40 of the second to give Rochester a 10-5 lead heading into halftime.
The third quarter featured only one goal per team with Scott Campbell providing the Rochester goal. After forcing a turnover, he took it the distance to increase the Knighthawks lead to 11-5.
The fourth quarter featured two goals by each team. McCready and Jamieson scored for the Knighthawks around two Bandit goals. Jamieson finished the game with eight points (3+5), while McCready chipped in two goals and two assists. Matt Vinc finished the contest with 27 saves to force the mini-game.
After the Knighthawks defeated the Bandits in the full game, the new 10 minute mini-game took effect. Joe Resetarits opened the scoring for the Bandits, but McCready tied the game at one for the Knighthawks with under three minutes to play. That would be all the scoring in the 10 minutes, which meant sudden death overtime was needed. Vitarelli, the man who opened the night's scoring, ended it 2:52 into sudden death.
“It’s just good to see the boys so happy,” said McCready. We never stopped battling all night and it was a team effort. It feels real good right now.”
The Knighthawks will now face the Calgary Roughnecks in the Champion’s Cup Finals. Game One is set for Saturday, May 24th at 7:00 p.m. at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Game 2 will be played on Saturday, May 31st at The Blue Cross Arena at 8:00 p.m.