Team Effort Leads to Historic Opening-Night Win
The Rochester Knighthawks ushered in the 2017-18 season with an impressive 17-6 win over the Calgary Roughnecks. The 11-goal margin of victory was the most dominating opening-night performance in franchise history.
That dominance started with goaltender Matt Vinc, who made 40 saves to go along with three assists. In the first quarter, his fifth stop of the game moved him past Bob Watson for second all-time in National Lacrosse League history in saves.
With Vinc's help, the defense shut down the Calgary offense and limited top scorers Curtis Dickson and Dane Dobbie to a single assist. Team captain Sid Smith and first-year Knighthawk Billy Dee Smith were part of the defensive unit that held the Roughnecks scoreless for spans of 21 and 22 minutes. At the end of the night, the six goals scored tied a Roughnecks' record for futility.
The defense, however, was equally as potent on offense and in transition, as five defensemen scored goals. One of the biggest tallies of the game came at 9:27 of the first quarter when Luc Magnan burst through three Roughnecks and beat goalie Frank Scigliano to make it 3-1. The shorthanded marker was his first professional goal.
"It felt great to finally get one," said the third-year pro. "To be honest, I was pretty fired up and surprised at the same time. I usually don't get many chances, so I'm fortunate that it went in."
Not to be outdone, D-men Dylan Evans, Brad Gillies, Ian Llord and Scott Campbell also scored on Saturday night. Campbell added three assists to tie a career high, which included his 100th career point. Jake Withers made his presence known, setting a team rookie record with 19 faceoff wins. This year's second-overall pick also scooped up 10 loose balls.
"Playing Saturday night was a dream come true," said Withers. "Being on the other side of the glass and playing in front of the thousands of fans at The Blue Cross Arena was amazing. I am honored to be a part of such a great organization. More importantly, I am excited we earned our first win of the season."
Withers was one of two rookies to make his pro debut on Saturday, joining past Ohio State teammate Eric Fannell. The St. Catharines, Ontario native recorded three assists in the win over the Roughnecks.
The balanced-scoring effort featured 11 different goal scorers and produced 17 goals, which were the most scored by a Knighthawks team since March 12, 2016. In that contest, Cody Jamieson notched two goals and five assists.
It was no surprise then that Jamieson played a key role in the next 17-goal effort. After receiving a standing ovation during the pregame introductions, "Jammer" proceeded to post one goal and three assists. His third-quarter marker was the 200th of his career and was his first since May 1, 2016.
"It's a testament to how long I have been here now," said the eight-year pro. "Not too many people can get to that milestone because there are so many young guys coming up. To be here that long and score that many feels good."
Fellow alternate captain Dan Dawson admitted that the offense got a big boost with the return of the former NLL MVP.
"He makes everyone play two inches bigger, 10 pounds heavier," said Dawson. "He is the franchise player for a reason. He's scoring goals out there in his first game back, but he's doing the little things right (as well)."
"He is the best player in the world, and he worked hard to get here," he added. "He showed why this team goes by what he does. Having him back was a real emotional lift for us."
Dawson (3+3) and Joe Resetarits (2+4) finished tied for the team lead with six points. Cory Vitarelli and Josh Currier also chipped in a pair of goals. Both forwards were back in the lineup after recovering from injuries. Meanwhile, Kyle Jackson, who opened the game with a pair of goals, ended the night with three points (2+1).
The win was a total team effort and exactly the way the Knighthawks wanted to open the season.
"It felt like the weight of the world was lifted off our shoulders after the season we had last year," said Jackson. "It was a fresh start with some fresh new faces, and we made an impact immediately in the 2017-18 season. There's no better way I would've wanted our first game to unfold."
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