Rochester Captures NLL Cup Once Again in Thriller
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - The Rochester Knighthawks showed in the last three minutes why they have won three straight NLL championships.
They trailed by two goals. Yet, they took the ball into Calgary's end and patiently passed it around as if they had all the time in the world. Craig Point scored with 2:14 left, Joe Walters scored with 1:23 left, and Point struck again with 59 seconds remaining. Bang, bang, bang. Three goals in one minute 15 seconds for a 3-2 win in a 10-minute, series-deciding minigame, and a few minutes later they are posing with the Champion's Cup.
''I can't say enough about this team and the resiliency we've shown,'' said captain Sid Smith. ''Our play speaks for itself, what we did when we were down by two. It's unbelievable.''
But wasn't he concerned time might run out before they could score one let alone three goals?
''Definitely, we were concerned, but the best thing to do there was to stay calm and that's what we did,'' Smith said. ''We're a veteran team. We'd been there before. We knew that was our best chance at winning so that's what we did, and we pulled it out.''
Point's heroics in the minigame and the return of Dan Dawson for the preceding Game 2 of the home-and-home set were the difference. Oh, and let's not forget that handful of saves by goaltender Matt Vinc when the Roughnecks stormed the 'Hawks end in the last 15 seconds.
''We never once panicked,'' said head coach Mike Hasen. ''We knew we'd get our opportunities and we snuck 'er out.''
Dawson, who was unable because of a concussion to suit up for Game 1 in Calgary which the Roughnecks won 10-7, scored three goals including the winner and assisted on four in Game 2. A 6-1 fourth quarter enabled Rochester to pull away to a 16-10 win.
''Ask anybody in this league who has played with Dan, he's one of the best leaders in this sport,'' said Smith. ''He easily could be wearing this C. He's a tough competitor. I can't say enough about the way he played (Saturday night). He was huge.''
Dawson, a firefighter in Brampton, Ontario, on weekdays and a former NLL MVP, was grateful for the opportunity to pull on the pads.
''I couldn't get cleared for the first game,'' he said. ''It was heartbreaking. I pushed it this week and was cleared at the last minute. Thank God we've got a great training staff and doctors who got me ready for this.''
Owner-GM Curt Styres couldn't have been happier to see Dawson come out for the anthems.
''It was a relief,'' he said. ''He was very upset he wasn't able to play in Calgary.''
There was no relief for the Roughnecks when Point started erasing Calgary's 2-0 lead in the minigame.
''Most teams would crumble under that pressure,'' said Dawson. ''But if you'd look down our bench there wasn't one guy who doubted our ability to get back in this (minigame) and win it. That just goes to show the character we have. It's been a long since. They added to extra games to the regular season and introduced a new playoff format. We had guys playing with broken bones. This is just an amazing feeling.''
Nobody was more amazed than Point. He had a clear shot for the goal that won the minigame and the title.
''All game, our coaches were saying, 'Go high and put it low,' and that's what I did,'' he said. ''Sure enough it went in. It was awesome.''
No other team in the 28 years of pro indoor lacrosse has won three consecutive championships.
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