By Matt Noonan
BOSTON, MA – This was not your typical National Lacrosse League contest, but instead, a boxing match between two physical teams that desperately needed wins.
Although, after they kicked, scream, yelled and played tough physical lacrosse, the Rochester Knighthawks [7-5] earned their seventh win of the season, as well as clinched a playoff spot after their 19-8 thrashing against the Boston Blazers [6-8].
“[It] sucks,” stated Boston Blazers head coach Matt Sawyer. “It’s tough and asking me after that performance out there was even worse [and it’s] something that we’re all going to remember for a long time.”
Boston’s last win came on February 19, against Minnesota. Josh Sanderson recorded four goals and Casey Powell added six assists, but ever since that Saturday evening, the Blazers have yet to add a win in their win column.
The Blazers have now lost five games in a row, which isn’t something that either Sawyer or his team likes to brag about.
“We’re not focused on that [because] we’re focusing right now what’s foremost in our mind, [which is our team’s] abysmal effort,” said Sawyer.
The Blazers shots weren’t crisp, their defense was horrendous, and their passes weren’t even on target.
Also, let’s not get started with goaltender, Anthony Cosmo, who only saved 22 of 41 shots on net, but has Sawyer said after the game, the goalie wanted to play the entire 60-minutes, which sounds sort of bizarre, right? Yet, Cosmo is a competitor and has always put his team first.
“He likes a lot of shots, so I gave him the opportunity to stay in there and asked him what he wanted to do in between the third and fourth [quarter] and he’s a proud guy and he likes to work. He wanted to stay in there. If I hadn’t known it was going to turn into a shooting gallery on the power-play, I certainly would have pulled him,” said Sawyer.
“We’re coming back with him against Philadelphia [next weekend], so if [Cosmo] wanted those shots in the fourth, he was getting them.”
Whether Cosmo should have been pulled is certainly a valuable question, but what the Blazers needed was something to get the squad fired up.
The Boston Blazers use the phrase, “fired up” before, during and after games, but nothing seemed to fire this particular squad up, especially not even the fights or various goals. Boston was flat, but Rochester took advantage of their poor play and executed their game plan. The Knighthawks scored early and often, as well as left the TD Garden with sole possession of third place in the East Division.
“It feels nice [to be in the playoffs],” said Rochester head coach Mike Hasen. “It’s something that [was] goal, I guess, so we got that far, [but have] more work to do.”
Hasen also commented on Boston’s five game losing streak, but primarily kept the attention on him, his team and their win.
“I can’t comment on what’s happening in their room,” said Hansen. “I just know what we have in our room and we just continually build and just keep moving forward, so that’s our focus. Our focus is us and I think we we’re just catching them at the right time [because] they are a good team and they’ll get out of this and they’ll be trouble when they do.”
After this particular loss, the Blazers are clearly unsure of where their 2011 future remains foggy and unknown. They could win out and most likely grab the final playoff spot in the East or end a season, which began with so much promise with two back-to-back losses.
Yet, Sawyer seems to have a plan and so does his staff and players. He wants to win, but the question, which remain is does he have enough energy and will power to motivate a team that can clearly contend for a championship?
“We’re anxious to get this turned around and we feel when we do, we know we can do some damage,” said Sawyer.
“Our first goal is to make the playoffs and from there on in is to advance. I believe in this team, of course, I [think] that we can win a championship or else, I wouldn’t be standing up here, so [yes], we’re anxious to get back out there and perform.”