The Rochester Knighthawks and Washington Stealth kicked off the 2013 National Lacrosse League season on Saturday night in a matchup that was closer than many expected. The Washington Stealth ended up coming out on top 13-12 after a fourth quarter comeback.
The Stealth were the first to strike when Rhys Duch found the net in the first two minutes of the game. Johnny Powless tied it up for the Hawks but then the Stealth managed to take a 3-1 lead by the end of the first quarter with goals from Matt Beers and Cliff Smith. The goal would be Smith's first of eight points on the night.
Rochester came out swinging in the second quarter with three straight goals to take a 4-3 lead. Cliff Smith tied it back up but then Rochester scored another pair to jump out to a 6-4 lead. The Stealth did not want to go into intermission down so in the final minutes of the half, Athan Iannucci scored his first then Cliff Smith once again tied it up at 6-6 heading into halftime.
The third quarter was more back-and-forth as the Knighthawks would score and the Stealth would counter with a goal of their own. Vitarelli completed his hat trick in the third and the Knighthawks took a slim 9-8 lead going into the final quarter of the game.
The Knighthawks once again struck first, increasing their lead to two goals when Stephen Keogh scored his first and only goal of the night. But the fourth quarter was largely the Stealth in control as they outscored the Knighthawks 5-3, including a three goal run, to squeak out a last minute win over the defending champions. Athan Iannucci netted the game winning goal with just a minute and a half left to play.
Despite losing the game, the Knighthawks looked pretty good. Their transition game was stronger than expected with goals from Brad Self and Scott Campbell as well as several other breakaways that did not score.
Cody Jamieson (1G + 4A) and Johnny Powless (2G +3A) led the team in points with five each. Joe Walters also had a good game with four points (2G +2A) and Cory Vitarelli had a hat trick. Dan Dawson had a fairly successful Knighthawk debut with four assists. Casey Powell was scratched but is expected to be back in the lineup for Rochester's next game. Matt Vinc had 51 saves.
If there was one area Rochester was weakest, it was in defense. It is clear the Knighthawks missed having two-time NLL Defender of the Year Ryan Cousins in the lineup as he is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
On the Stealth side of things, it was Cliff Smith who surprisingly had the most points with eight (3G + 5A). This earned him the game MVP. Rhys Duch (3G + 3A) also had a good game with six points. Athan Iannucci and Lewis Ratcliff each had a pair of goals. Tyler Richards made 35 saves.
The Knighthawks have a bye week next week but will be back to action on January 19th in their home opener against the Buffalo Bandits.