The Rochester Knighthawks shut down the first-place Saskatchewan Rush, 16-11, tonight at Connors & Ferris Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The win marked the first time the Knighthawks have beaten the Rush since the 2012 Champion’s Cup game and snapped a six-game road winning streak for Saskatchewan.
“It was a long time coming for us,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “We’ve got 24 guys in that room who all believe in each other and all believe in what we’re doing. It just took us a little while to get there. It’s working right now. We’re working as a team. It’s not one guy right now; it’s everybody working together.”
Rochester got a seven-point night from Cody Jamieson (3+4), while rookie Austin Shanks had a stellar night with a pair of goals and a pair of assists. Josh Currier (2+1), Kyle Jackson (2+1) and Joe Resetarits (1+2) each had three points. Meanwhile, Graeme Hossack, Cory Vitarelli, Scott Campbell and Quinn Powless each posted one goal and one assist. Defenseman Paul Dawson scored his first goal of the season, an empty-netter, with just 1:37 to play.
For Shanks, it seemed like all the hard work the team has been putting in all season is starting to pay off.
“We know if we just keep working hard, it’s going to go our way,” he said. “We kept working hard tonight, getting offensive loose balls, defensive loose balls, and those are huge second and third opportunities to get the ball in the net.”
The Rush got on the board with three goals in just over five minutes, but Jackson got the Knighthawks going with a bullet that beat goaltender Evan Kirk. Currier and Campbell evened up the game with less than two minutes left in the quarter, but a quick one from Ryan Dilks put the Rush back in front 4-3.
Rochester’s Matt Vinc was stellar in goal, making 14 stops in the first quarter to finish game with 41 saves. The victory was the first in 10 tries against the Rush for the Knighthawks.
In the second, Rochester mounted a comeback by scoring five straight goals over a span of 9:22 to pull in front 8-5. Jamieson netted two of those goals, while Powless beat the shot clock with a long-range rip from the right wing to gave Rochester its first lead of the night, 5-4. The Knighthawks scored six times in the second to take a 9-7 lead into halftime.
The game slowed down in the third with each team scoring twice. Rochester took an 11-9 lead into the fourth and exploded for five goals in the final 15 minutes to earn the home victory.
“We put ourselves in a big hole (earlier in the season) and we understood that,” Jamieson said. “We’ve still got the same principles, the same offense that we’ve been working on since day one, except now we’re just executing. The balls are starting to fall in the net and when they’re not falling, we’re not hanging our head as much. It’s that ‘what’s next?’ attitude that coach Hasen is always bringing to the table.”
Jake Withers went 19-of-29 on faceoffs, surpassing Mac Allen for 10th on the Knighthawks all-time faceoff wins list.
The Knighthawks will travel to Buffalo to face the Bandits on Saturday, Feb. 24 at KeyBank Center. Rochester will be home again on Saturday, March 10 when it takes on the Georgia Swarm.
“We’ve got total confidence in that locker room,” Jamieson said. “We know how fast we are. We are a lot younger and a lot faster than the team in the past and we’re playing like that now. We’ll celebrate tonight, but get back to work at practice to prepare for a tough Buffalo team that’s in first place right now.”