Knighthawks OT thriller
ROCHESTER, N.Y.--- The Rochester Knighthawks defeated the New York Riptide in the second longest game in NLL history spanning just over 74 minutes. Brad Gillies was Rochester's knight in shining armor, scoring the game winner in the last minute of overtime while simultaneously sealing his hat trick of transition goals on the night. Connor Fields and Ryan Smith both had five point nights. Fields notching a hat trick and Ryan Smith finding four assists. Rylan Hartley stood on his head yet again, posting 44 saves on the night.
Rochester was coming off of a bye week following a home win against Halifax that saw the Thunderbirds almost come back in the closing minutes. The rust of the bye week was noticed by Ryan Smith in the first half.
"I think coming off the bye week we weren't in sync... thought we found it second quarter on though," Smith said
Jeff Teat scored the first two goals of the game for the Riptide, both coming in the opening six minutes of the game. five on five play was a grudge match between these teams, neither defensive unit giving up an inch. Ryan smith came away with the first Rochester goal on the power play, that sparked momentum away from the Riptide. Ryland Rees would score the next one to tie things up at two a piece. He stayed on for an offensive shift and worked his way in front of the net to get a feed from Thomas Hoggarth.
The offensive turnovers truly set in for Rochester following Rees' goal. Kevin Brownell scored twice in the last three minutes of the first quarter, both off missed passes and offensive miscues. New York had a two goal lead going into the second but Rochester did their job in stopping that momentum at the start of the second quarter. It took six minutes for the first second quarter goal of the game. Fields from the top of the key, never in doubt, he notched his 29th goal of the season. Gillies wouldn't let the momentum go to waste, driving down the floor and scoring his first goal of the night just 25 seconds after Fields, tied 4-4.
Despite the settling, Rochester was not done with the offensive turnovers. Brownell wasn't done capitalizing either, sealing his hat trick with an identical fast break goal to the first two. Connor Fields tied things right back up thirty seconds later, but before the Knighthawks knew it, Jeff Teat had finished his hat trick and took the lead for the Riptide. Rochester looked like they would head into the break down by one. That was until the Knighthawks went on the power play with 9 seconds left on the clock. Connor Fields looked to wind up at the top of the key and take his best shot. Instead he faked and dished to Holden Cattoni on the crease who beat Orleman and Rochester headed into the half with a tied game 6-6.
The second half was an entirely different story from Rochester. They came out with a confidence and physicality that shut down the Riptide offense. Connor Fields scored the first goal of the quarter, finishing his hat trick as well. The next two goals in the quarter for Rochester both came from defenders. Captain Paul Dawson scored his first goal of the season on a fast break. Two minutes later, Gillies intercepted a pass and crashed into the offensive zone, beat Orleman once again. Rochester left the third quarter up 9-6.
Rochester continued their momentum into the fourth quarter, Hoggarth finally found the back of the net just over a minute into the period. That was the end of the Rochester show in the fourth quarter, Tyler Digby snagged one back for the Riptide just moment's after Hoggarth's goal. The Riptide started to heat up in the last five minutes, it seemed clear that Rochester's 10 goals would not be enough to get them through regulation. Reilly O'Connor scored with just over three minutes to go in the game, Jeff Teat followed him up a minute and a half later and New York was only down by one.
With just over a minute to go, Rochester set up their offense and looked for their last chance to seal the game. That's not how it played out, instead Ryan Smith tripped in the middle of the field, another Knighthawks went down and Ron John took the ball on a fast break for New York. Despite a long review it was called a good goal and things were tied at 10 with 55 seconds left.
Overtime was the second longest ever in the NLL, shorter by just two minutes. Hartley and Orleman both made save after save and both defenses stood tall. By the back half of the extra period Rochester's offense was clearly gassed. They started playing more conservative and looking for odd man rush opportunities. Connor Fields missed a fast break attempt and things looked like they might be over in that moment. On the defensive end they wouldn't quit though. On the next possession, despite cramping, Matt Bennett was able to cause a turnover and Gillies snagged it out of the air and started his run. He kept his stick high and waited until the last second to go top left corner, the ball wrapping around the post inside the netting.
Rochester now move to 8-2 on the season and back into a three way tie for the Eastern Conference. That will change after next week as Rochester will head to Toronto to take on the 8-2 Rock, also tied for first.