ROCHESTER — The Rochester Knighthawks return to the postseason was a successful one, as they defeated the New England Black Wolves 15-11 Friday night in the East Division Semifinals.
Rochester, who was playing in its first postseason game since 2015, was led by several players who were making their professional playoff debuts. Kyle Jackson registered a three-point night (2+1), while Austin Shanks scored three of Rochester’s first four goals as part of a four-goal performance.
“It was awesome. It takes the monkey off our back,” said Shanks. “They swept us during the regular season, so it was nice to come out here in the playoffs, when it matters, and take that ‘W.’”
Despite the heroics of Shanks, it was Brad Gillies who stole the spotlight on Friday, posting his first pro hat trick in his postseason debut. It was his third goal of the night that proved to be one of the turning points of the game. With Rochester leading 12-10 early in the fourth quarter, he picked off a pass and scored on a breakaway to put the Knighthawks in control of the game for good.
“The crowd was electric tonight,” Gillies said. “To do that in front of them was a great feeling.”
Rochester never trailed as it jumped out to a 4–0 lead in the first quarter. In the second the Knighthawks scored six unanswered goals to take a commanding 11–4 advantage into halftime. Joe Resetarits, who finished with a team-high six points, scored one of his two goals and added two assists during that run.
Despite New England’s attempt at a comeback in the second half, Rochester’s defense did its job, and goaltender Matt Vinc made some spectacular saves. Vinc, who finished the game with 49 stops, passed NLL Hall of Famer Dallas Eliuk for second on the NLL’s all-time playoff saves list.
Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen was very pleased with his team’s ability to close out the game.
“It’s been a process all year long for us,” he said. “We took a deep breath in the fourth quarter and started playing smart lacrosse.”
Rochester will continue its quest for a sixth championship when it travels to play the Georgia Swarm in the East Division Finals on Saturday, May 12 at 7:05 p.m.
Out West, Calgary will take on Saskatchewan May 13th. The winners meet for the new NLL Championship Cup starting the following weekend in a new best-of-three series format.