Nationals Score on Both Coasts
The Hamilton Nationals were on opposite ends of Canada last Saturday. While the Nationals were rallying for a 12-11 win over the New York Lizards, six team members of the Nationals were playing in the National Lacrosse League Championship Game in Langley, BC.
Both games were thrilling one-goal games with the Rochester Knighthawks hanging on to an 11-10 victory over the Washington Stealth to capture back-to-back titles. Moments before the Knighthawks' historic win, Kevin Crowley sank a two-point shot with five seconds left to lead Hamilton to a win in its home opener.
Cody Jamieson was named the Game MVP of the NLL Championship Game Saturday night to become the second player in NLL history to win the award two years in a row. He finished the game with three goals and three assists. Fellow Nationals Joe Walters, Sid Smith, Matt Vinc and Stephen Keogh also raised the Cup for the second straight season. Walters scored the game-winning goal and added five assists to keep the Cup in his hometown.
"To have the trophy here is very special to us," said Walters. "I know what it means to the Rochester lacrosse community."
Vinc, who last played with the Nationals in 2010, became the first NLL Goalie of the Year to win the individual honor as well as an NLL Championship in the same season. He finished the game with 39 saves, which included a stop on Nationals teammate Rhys Duch with three seconds to play.
"That final minute, (Goaltending Coach Pat O'Toole) just said for me to stay relaxed," Vinc said. "You try to stay relaxed, but it's almost a blur. You're just kind of reacting out there. Fortunately, things went our way. You're bouncing, your adrenaline is pumping and you're ready to go. There is no other feeling, that last minute of the game in the championship."
Smith was the first to raise the Cup as the captain of the Knighthawks. It was the third professional title of his career, going along with the 2012 NLL Championship and the Major League Lacrosse crown he won in 2009 with the Nationals. Keogh also played a role in the team's run to a second straight championship. He scored one goal and added four assists in two playoff games. Keogh enters his third season with the Nationals and third in the MLL. In 2012, he led the Nats with 26 goals, which was tied for seventh in the MLL. The Toronto native was third on the team with 32 points.
This Friday, Jamieson, Walters, Vinc, Smith and Keogh are slated to rejoin the undefeated Nationals. The game against Charlotte will mark the beginning of another quest for a championship.
"First off, I am very excited to join the Nats. Even though we were with the Knighthawks, I followed them the last two games. We are off to a 2-0 start, which is a big difference from the 0-3 start last season," said Walters. "With only four teams making the playoffs, every game is important. It puts us in a good situation. Now with our full team, we can continue toward our goal of an MLL title."
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