The Washington Stealth’s bid for a second Champions Cup in four years ran out of steam in the final minutes of Saturday’s NLL Championship Game as the Rochester Knighthawks, led by All-Pro goaltender Matt Vinc, hung on for an 11-10 win to secure their second consecutive title before a sold-out Langley Events Centre in Langley, British Columbia.
For the 5,200 fans that packed Langley’s arena for the first NLL title to be contested in British Columbia, the game proved to be a classic with Washington chasing Rochester throughout the night forcing three ties before the Knighthawks managed to hold down the Stealth and hang on for the win.
But in a game that rarely strayed beyond a one-goal margin, it was the Stealth’s second-half defensive effort, holding Rochester to a single goal while scoring three of its own, that nearly forced a fourth tie and a bid for the title.
“You couldn’t ask for a more exciting game,” said Stealth head coach Chris Hall, whose squad hung with Rochester shot-for-shot putting 31 on Vinc in the first then tightened up its own defense in the second. “It was a great game to watch and was played by two awfully good teams,” Hall said. “Both teams have known since the beginning of this week that it was likely going to be a one goal game today.”
For Rochester, the title made NLL history, as the Knighthawks became the only team since the Toronto Rock in 2002 and 2003 to win back-to-back championships in the past decade.