Once again, defense was the name of the game for the Knighthawks, plus the links

Paul Dawson, right, helped lead the charge for the Rochester defense on Saturday. (Photo: Greg Olson)
Paul Dawson, right, helped lead the charge for the Rochester defense on Saturday. (Photo: Greg Olson)

Scoring 1 goal in 1 half of a National Lacrosse League game doesn’t bode well for title aspirations. Unless you scored 10 goals in the first half of said game. The Knighthawks picked a good time to have one of their best 30 minutes of offense, scoring 10 goals in a half for just the second time this season. (They scored 11 in a Feb. 8 win over Philadelphia). That first-half production helped the Knighthawks get away with the lack of it in the second half of their 11-10 win over Washington Saturday. But the other part of the story was nothing new: Defense. “Those guys are unbelievable,” Rochester’s Dan Dawson told the Democrat and Chronicle of his team’s defense. “They sit in lanes, soak up shots, and they’re willing to put their bodies on the line for the team. It’s unbelievable to see that. And Vino showed why he’s the best in the game and we rode him. He took us all the way.”

It’s been said many times before that offense wins games and defense wins championships. As proof, the Knighthawks have won the last 2 Champion’s Cups. They led 10-7 heading into the third quarter and if anyone knew Joe Walters would score the only goal of the second half for Rochester, let’s just say the party plans would have been put on hold.

Enter the Rochester defense. Facing a Washington offense stacked with snipers like Rhys Duch, Lewis Ratcliff and Athan Iannucci, the task in limiting that trio was tall. Duch was the only one of those 3 to score goals in the second half, the others coming from Brett Bucktooth and Tyler Garrison. For the game, Ratcliff and Iannucci were held to a combined 2 goals on 13 shots. Garrison himself scored 2 goals on 3 shots. So when the production didn’t come from the top shooters, the Stealth needed it from elsewhere. But they didn’t get it.

“Hats off to the defence, obviously,” Rochester’s Cody Jamieson said in The Vancouver Sun. “Score one goal in the second half and our defense holds them, it’s huge for us.”

Stealth coach Chris Hall said it was a familiar problem that reared its ugly head in that second half.

“It was the same thing that plagued us all year,” Hall told NLL.com. “We didn’t play consistently as a whole unit. Our defense struggled in the first half when our offense was on and then our offense only scored three goals in the second half when our defense only let them score one.”

And so the Stealth talked about pride, as well they should. They’ve been an NLL finalist 3 of the last 4 seasons. But it’s the Rochester Knighthawks who are champs 2 years running, and there are 8 other NLL teams that would love to be in Rochester’s Reeboks today.

plus the links

Washington’s Rhys Duch had 2 opportunities to tie the game on a shot with 18 seconds left and another as the horn was about to sound, but Rochester goalie Matt Vinc was equal to the task. “Woulda, could, shoulda. Vinc was going down. I don’t think I made the right shot on that first one. I should have gone far side and high. And the last one, I was trying to get it on net.” (The Province) … Stealth goalie Tyler Richards was on the bench in the final seconds for an extra attacker, and he truly believed his team would rally. “Standing on the bench (in the final seconds), it felt like destiny was with us. We had a couple opportunities there, but it didn’t fall our way tonight.” (Seattle Times) … Coach Chris Hall said the Stealth nearly played Saturday without Duch, their leading scorer. “It’s not an excuse, it’s not anything like that, but for Rhys to be able to play in this game tonight was a monumental effort. On Monday he had 10 percent flexion in his leg. He had a huge, deep charley horse in his left quad and right up to game time we didn’t know how mobile he was going to be or if he was even going to be able to play.” (Everett Herald) … Duch said the Stealth talked at halftime about adjustments but there was one they didn’t count on. “We made the necessary adjustments at halftime, we just couldn’t beat Vinc in the second half.” (Everett Herald).

Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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