Congratulations to the Rochester Knighthawks, your 2012 NLL Champions. In the lowest scoring Championship game since… last year [OK, that may not have had the impact I was going for], the Knighthawks came back from a one-goal first half and a 5-1 halftime deficit to outscore the Edmonton Rush 8-1 in the second half and win 9-6. Matt Vinc was outstanding in the first half, keeping the Knighthawks in the game when it could have turned into another blowout like last week’s Western final in Minnesota. He was even better in the second half and in my opinion, deserved to be named game MVP.
Instead, that honour went to Cody Jamieson, and I can’t honestly say that Jamieson wasn’t also deserving. He had four goals and four assists, including the first and last goals of the game as well as the game-tying goal. He also had assists on the go-ahead goal and the game winning goal. Zack Greer led the way for the Rush with 2+2 but despite outshooting the Knighthawks 52-35, the Rush just couldn’t solve Vinc. Aaron Bold also had a strong night in the Edmonton net, holding the Knighthawks scoreless in the first quarter and only allowing a single goal in the first half.
There was talk on Twitter about how bad the commentary was on the CBS broadcast – Casey Powell remarking about the ten-second rule being over too quickly – but I was watching the game with friends and we were yapping far too much to hear anything from the broadcast. I thought it was really weird that Powell was a hold-out from the Knighthawks (though he wondered if he’d be getting a ring since he’s on the roster) and yet is doing the commentary on the Championship game involving the Knighthawks. Was Paul Rabil not available?
I loved the picture posted by Paul Stewart of Shawn Williams remaining on the floor to watch the Cup presentation ceremony, the only member of the Rush still there. As someone who played in Rochester for ten years, Willy knew how much this victory meant to the organization as well as the Knighthawks fans. Losing that game after looking so dominant in the first half must have been extra painful, so it was a classy move to remain to watch the ceremony.
So thus ends the 2012 NLL season. The Knighthawks took an improbable road to the Championship by losing three of their first four, and at the half-way point of the season they were 3-5 and third in the East. But they came through in the second half of the season – or did they? Not really. They lost four of their last six and ended up with a losing 7-9 record, but finishing second in the east thanks to similarly lousy seasons by Buffalo and Philadelphia. Give the Knighthawks credit where it’s due though – they came alive in the playoffs, taking out the Wings despite being outscored 7-2 in the fourth, then dominating the Rock in Toronto, and then coming back from a single-goal first half against the Rush.
The Rush had a similarly rough regular season, starting 2-7 and looking like they might be the lone team left out of the playoffs. But they finished the season 4-3, including wins over the Swarm and the Mammoth. And then came the playoffs. The offense that had been lacking all season long exploded for 19 goals against Calgary – the best defense in the league – and then 15 against Minnesota. They went into the Championship game as the hottest team in the league, and for half the game, that continued. But they seemed to run out of gas after that, and the Knighthawks took advantage. The Rush should be very proud of their playoff run, and considering their first-overall draft pick, they could be pretty good for years to come.
It was an exciting season, to be sure – the parity we expected at the beginning of the year was definitely a huge factor. The whole cliché about any team being able to beat any other team on any given night was true, and yet we didn’t have all nine teams at or near .500, especially in the west. Congrats again to the NLL Champion Knighthawks.