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May 16, 2012

NLL Finals Preview: Spotlight on Goalie Matchup

The Rochester Knighthawks will be seeking the franchise's third pro indoor lacrosse championship while the Edmonton Rush will be looking for their first in Rochester, N.Y., on Saturday night.

These are two well-coached teams that have peaked at the right time to knock off higher-seeded opponents and get to the National Lacrosse League's Champion's Cup game (7:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network). They did not meet during the regular season so will rely on scouting reports and video analysis in forming game plans.

Rochester should have an edge offensively and Edmonton looks to be the superior force defensively.

The matchup everyone will be watching closely pits 2010 and 2011 NLL goalie of the year Matt Vinc against his former backup Aaron Bold, whose stats have been superior to most other NLL goalies all year.

Some specifics:

These two teams have not met previously in the postseason.

Last regular-season meeting was Feb. 26, 2011, when Edmonton lost 13-9 in Rochester.

Rochester was 7-9 and Edmonton was 6-10 during the 2012 regular season.

To get to the final, Rochester survived a torrid late Philadelphia rally to win 14-13 at home then went into Toronto and upended the 2011-champion Rock 17-13, while Edmonton shocked the No. 1 overall seed 19-11 in Calgary and then trounced the Swarm 15-3 in Minnesota.

The intrigue factor: Bold and former Knighthawks captain Shawn Williams will be playing in Rochester for the first time since the trade that sent them to the Rush last October; and Rush transition player Steve Toll, who along with Williams helped Rochester win the 2007 NLL title, also returns to Blue Cross Arena.

Rush GM-coach Derek Keenan: ''We've played well defensively all year, we've had solid goaltending, and the offence started to come around late in the season. We've put the whole package together at the right time.''

Keenan on Rush forward Ryan Ward: ''He's had a hot stick. We challenged him before the playoffs to be a leader on the right side. He's shooting the ball extremely well and making plays.''

Keenan on the Knighthawks: ''Real deep in scoring is the way I see them. They've got seven or eight guys who can put the ball in the net. They're the whole package. They're a complete team top to bottom.''

Knighthawks coach Mike Hasen: ''We've simplified things a little bit and have got guys concentrating on what they have to do individually in terms of what their roles are.''

Hasen on the Rush: ''Their record does them no justice by any means. Their goaltender has been dynamite for them all year. Their defense is young and quick and in your face. They've got six or seven guys who, when the ball is in their stick, are threats all the time.''

Hasen on playing at home: ''We're going to prepare like it's any other game for us and go out there and do our best.''

PREDICTION: Edmonton. Bold has consistently been the best goaltender in the NLL all year and shows no signs of breaking down now.


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