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Knighthawks lose lead late, fall on OT shorty

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For the second straight game, the Rochester Knighthawks (1-7) surrendered a late goal in the final seconds of regulation before falling in overtime as they suffered a heartbreaking 11-10 loss Sunday afternoon to the Vancouver Warriors (4-5) at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena.

Holden Cattoni led the Knighthawks with an eight-point effort on the strength of two goals and six assists to retain the team’s scoring lead while Shawn Evans finished with six points (2+4). The two-time NLL MVP, who two weeks ago passed former teammate John Grant, Jr. for fifth all-time in assists in NLL history, is now within six goals of 450 for his pro career.

Phil Caputo notched his first hat trick of the season on his way to a four-goal night while Cory Highfield (1+1), Turner Evans (1+1) and Curtis Knight (0+2) all recorded a pair of points, including Evans’ go-ahead goal with 54 seconds to play. Rookie netminder Rylan Hartley made his first professional start and made 57 saves, which featured 29 in the second half, but suffered the loss.

Mitch Jones had a game-high nine-point (4+5) effort, which included the game-tying goal with five seconds left in the fourth as well as the game-winner 2:47 into overtime, to help the Warriors to their second straight road victory and third overall on the season. Joel McCready (4+1), a former Knighthawk from the previous franchise, and Keegan Bal (2+3) each added five points. Jordan McBride chipped in four assists while Riley Loewen (1+2) and Chris O’Dougherty (0+2) rounded out the scoring. Netminder Eric Penney stopped 36 of the 46 shots he faced to earn the win.

With the game tied 9-9 near the final minute of play, Turner Evans spotted a loose ball between the legs of Penney and quickly snapped the ball past the netminder to give Rochester a 10-9 lead at the 14:06 mark.

Facing a one-goal deficit with 12 seconds remaining in the fourth, Vancouver gathered the ball near its own net and used a timeout. Following the break, Bal sprinted up the floor before handing Jones the ball and the NLL’s leading point-getter fired in the shot with five seconds in regulation to force overtime.

“For me, I have to be less conservative,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “I was thinking more about clock management as opposed to letting the offensive guys be creative. I take full responsibility for that. Our offensive guys are smart enough to put the game away but I should have not have put a hamper on things.”

Rochester drew a power-play 2:05 into the extra session but Bal found Jones in transition out in-front of Hartley. The Knighthawks attempted to break up the shot attempt, however, Jones patiently outwaited the 20-year-old netminder and gave Vancouver the victory. It was Jones’ third straight goal in a span of 2:56 in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.

“For me I am not satisfied until we win,” said Hartley. “Tonight went well for myself, but I am not pleased since we didn’t get the win.”

In the opening quarter, the Knighthawks built a three-goal cushion at the 8:22 mark as both Cattoni and Shawn Evans each scored a goal while assisting on two others. Vancouver got on the board twice to stop the bleeding as Jones set up McCready and Bal 43 seconds apart.

To close out the scoring in the first quarter, Cattoni scored his second marker of the night from Turner Evans and Knight with 3:10 left to extend Rochester’s lead to 4-2.

The teams exchanged four goals each in the second quarter, highlighted by a hat trick from Caputo to keep the two-goal cushion for the Knighthawks. Caputo scored 2:14 in and then again at 7:24 before putting the finishing touches on his hat trick at the 12:08 mark. Vancouver would tack on two more in the final 1:28 to make it an 8-6 game in favor of Rochester heading into the half.

“The guys around me played well offensively,” Caputo said. “Personal success is always better when you win, but it did feel good to contribute tonight.”

After the half, Vancouver scored three of the next four goals, including the lone tally in the third quarter, to even the score at nine with 2:06 left in the fourth. Prior to Jones’ power-play marker late in regulation, Hartley made a pair of point-blank, game-saving stops to keep it deadlocked.

“He did a really good job,” said Cattoni of Hartley. “He was there when we needed him to be there and gave us a great chance to win. That was all we needed him to do and you have to give a lot of props to both our other two goaltenders (Craig Wende and Steve Fryer) as they stuck by him this week in practice.”

“Hartley was really good while also making quite a few saves that we did not expect,” Hasen added. “He gave us a really strong opportunity to win and that is all you need from your goaltenders in this league.”

After seeing Turner Evans score the potential game-clinching goal with 54 seconds left, Jones secured the win for Vancouver as he single-handedly gave the visitors an 11-10 overtime win.

The Knighthawks travel to Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday, Feb. 22 to face-off against the New England Black Wolves. The 7:00 p.m. matchup will be the only meeting of the season between the two teams 

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