By Scott Zerr
The Saskatchewan Rush mounted a furious comeback bid but the Rochester Knighthawks hung on to a lead they had right from the start of the game to claim a 13-10 victory on Saturday night.
With the win, the Knighthawks (7-7) jumped from last in the NLL’s East Division into a tie for first, while the Rush (11-3) had their three-game winning streak come to an end. The victory also marked a somewhat stunning season-series sweep for the Knighthawks over the Rush after winning in Rochester back in mid-February.
Rochester jumped out to a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter including back-to-back goals from Austin Shanks – the second of which was a shorthanded tally as he stormed in alone to put a shot to the top shelf against Rush goalie Evan Kirk. Saskatchewan pulled close on goals by Jeff Shattler and a breakaway strike from Chris Corbeil before Joe Resetarits scored from well out to make it 4-2.
The teams then went back and forth on the scoreboard in the second, each time Rochester restoring a two-goal lead right after a Rush goal. Ben McIntosh grabbed a feed from Jeff Shattler and fired a shot under the crossbar beating K-Hawks goalie Matt Vinc, but Rochester responded 42 seconds later on another long-range shot by Resetarits. Saskatchewan’s top-ranked power play got to work as Robert Church tucked home the rebound of a hot shot from Mark Matthews, and Matthews sent a rocket over Vinc’s shoulder.
Yet after both Rush’s power-play goals, the Knighthawks answered. Eric Fannell scored 58 seconds after Church’s marker, and then struck again only 20 seconds after Matthews’ goal as he got loose behind the Rush defence to give Rochester a 7-5 lead at halftime.
Fannell completed his hat trick with a diving shot after wheeling out of the corner and Shanks picked up his third less than two minutes later to put the Knighthawks up 9-5. A quick-stick tally by Church made it 9-6 leading the Rush into their comeback bid. Ryan Keenan opened the fourth with a hot shot on a Rush power-play off a feed from Church. Ben McIntosh closed the K-Hawks lead to 11-8 when he blew past a defender and sent a bounce shot past Vinc.
Church then brought the Rush to within one with back-to-back goals 56 seconds apart, first getting loose from Paul Dawson and firing in a sidearm shot and picking up his fourth of the goal of the game by rifling a shot from the restraining line in to make it 11-10.
Rochester withstood a final push from the Rush as the Knighthawks took advantage of Saskatchewan getting called for too many men. Cory Vitarelli made it 12-10 on the ensuing power play and Shanks completed his five-goal effort with an empty-netter.
Kyle Jackson and Scott Campbell also scored for the Knighthawks, while Cody Jamieson totalled five assists.
The Knighthawks are back home on Saturday, March 31st when they host the Colorado Mammoth who are also the Rush’s next opponent on Saturday, April 7th.