Knighthawks look back on 3-year anniversary of big trade with Mammoth

Goalie Matt Vinc, at the 2010 news conference announcing his arrival in Rochester. (Photo: Rochester Knighthawks)
Goalie Matt Vinc, at the 2010 news conference announcing his arrival in Rochester. (Photo: Rochester Knighthawks)

Curt Styres has pulled off a handful of high-profile trades during his tenure as the team’s owner and general manager. Today marks the three-year anniversary of arguably the most impactful swap he’s made to date. On October 27, 2010, the Knighthawks announced a deal with Colorado which sent the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, John Grant, Jr., defenseman Mac Allen and its first-round selections in 2011 and 2013 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft to the Mammoth in exchange for goaltender Matt Vinc, transition players Matt Zash and Brad Self, and Colorado’s first and third-round picks in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft. “Now that you mention it, it’s hard to believe it has been three years,” Vinc said.

“Looking back, it’s easy to say that they have been the best three years of my pro career. Everything happens for a reason. I can’t be more thankful to Curt and the Knighthawks’ organization for making it happen.”

“Vno” has been the backbone to a defense which has not only won consecutive Champion’s Cups in the last two seasons, but has also led the league with the fewest goals allowed since the 2011 season. In 2013, he established a new league record with 662 saves in a single season, and led the league with a .803 save percentage and 10.17 goals-against average. He also became the first netminder in league history to win the Goaltender of the Year Award three times in his career (2010, 2011 and 2013).

Vinc has been at his best in the postseason. Since joining the Knighthawks in 2011, his save percentage has improved from a .774 in the regular season to a .795 in the playoffs, and his goals-against average is nearly a point lower, decreasing from a 10.72 to an even 10.00. Of course, his six straight playoff victories are what matter the most, allowing him to become the first Rochester goaltender to win back-to-back titles.

“It’s easy to play in Rochester for great fans and in front of my family,” Vinc said. “I think that’s why we’ve really been successful. Curt focuses on family, and I am thankful to be a part of it. I actually can’t believe it’s already been three years.”

The acquisition of Self’s playing rights may have been overshadowed at the time of the trade. Self had not played in the NLL since 2008, having spent five years in Germany playing professional hockey. When the deal was finalized, he was skating for the Fischtown Penguins in Bremerhaven, Germany. In fact, two days after the trade was announced, he scored a hat trick in the Penguins’ 5-3 win over the Bietigheim Steelers.

“I am very thankful that I was able to come to Rochester and be a part of what Curt started over the past five or six years that he’s been there. He preaches family, and that’s exactly what it is,” he added. “There was still that uncertainty coming home since I hadn’t played in the NLL for quite a few years. It was kind of big decision in my life to quit hockey.”

Self returned to lacrosse full-time for the 2012 season, and has since become a vital piece to the Knighthawks’ defense while developing into a scoring threat in transition. He led the team with 96 loose balls in 2013, and he led all NLL defenders with nine goals and 22 points. He has a knack for deflecting and intercepting passes, which has helped him force a team-best 33 turnovers since 2012.

“He’s definitely a welcomed addition, especially when you look at how well he’s played for us. He’s been really an anchor for us in the transition game and a spark for the offense,” Vinc said.

The 2012 draft picks that Rochester gained in the trade helped Styres in two later moves. He sent the first rounder, along with forward Shawn Evans, to the Calgary Roughnecks in order to move up to the fifth spot in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft. With the subsequent pick, the Knighthawks grabbed a then 18-year-old Johnny Powless.

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