(Rochester, May 12)… The Rochester Knighthawks ended their playoff drought in Toronto, defeating the defending champion Toronto Rock 17-13 tonight at the Air Canada Centre. Rochester will play the winner of the Edmonton Rush-Minnesota Swarm game in the Champion’s Cup.
The Knighthawks were spear headed by Cory Vitarelli (4+1), Johnny Powless (2+4), Joe Walters (2+2), Mike Accursi (2+1), Jarrett Davis (1+3), and Craig Point (1+2). Matt Vinc was strong in net with 51 saves on 64 shots.
For the Rock, Garrett Billings (1+6), Colin Doyle (3+2), Stephen Leblanc (1+3), Josh Sanderson (4+1), and Kasey Beirnes (2+0) led the scoring while goalie Nick Rose made 22 saves on 36 shots.
The Knighthawks started quickly scoring the first two goals of the game to take an early 2-0 lead over the defending champion Toronto Rock. Cody Jamieson, team leader in points during the regular season, started the scoring at 1:04 followed by a goal by Accursi at 9:32 of the first.
Toronto went on a two-goal run to tie the score at two late in the first with goals by Josh Sanderson and Brenden Thenhaus. Point added a last second goal at 14:59 to re-take the lead making the score 3-2.
In the second, Toronto tied the score at three with a Kasey Biernes goal at 1:17. Hometown fan favorite, Joe Walters scored to take a 4-3 lead but seconds later the Rock answered with a goal by Colin Doyle at 5:24 to tie the game at four.
Walters scored his second goal of the game to give Rochester the lead again, the third time the Knighthawks re-gained the lead. Dylan Evans added onto the lead with a goal at 7:43 making the score 6-4. Jesse Gamble, however, reduced Rochester’s lead to one when he put the ball past Vinc in transition, but Cory Vitarelli scored at 14:24 to re-take the two goal lead, making the score 7-5 going into halftime.
Rochester started the second half with three unanswered goals. Goals by Stephen Keogh, Accursi, and Jamieson gave the Knighthawks a 10-5 lead. A goal by Sanderson made the score 10-6, but Rochester responded quickly with a goal by Jarrett Davis at 6:06 to make the score 11-6. The Rock kept fighting as Billings’ goal made the score 11-7 to end the scoring in the third.
In the fourth Rochester scored three unanswered goals. A goal by Vitarelli and two straight by Powless gave Rochester a 14-7 lead, breaking the game open. Toronto’s first goal of the fourth came by Doyle followed by a goal by Sanderson to make the score 14-9 Rochester.
Rochester yet again responded with a key goal when Billings was charged with a boarding penalty leading to a power-play goal by Vitarelli to give him the hat trick. Seconds later, Mike Kirk scored his first goal of the year on an empty net to make the score 16-9.
Vitarelli scored his fourth goal and second power-play goal of the game at 10:06, making the score 17-9, but the Rock were not exiting the playoffs without a fight. Goals by Sanderson and Beirnes reduced Rochester’s lead to six, making the score 17-11. Late goals by Leblanc and Doyle made the score 17-13, but it was not enough to stop Rochester from advancing to the Champion’s Cup.