ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The Rochester Knighthawks don't have a winning record, but hope to ride an intimidating defence to a second straight National Lacrosse League championship.
The Toronto Rock, the overall NLL leaders, outshot the Knighthawks 55-49 but goaltender Matt Vinc and the defensive corps led Rochester to a 12-8 victory Saturday night.
"It felt like playoff lacrosse," said Vinc. "We were 4-6 coming into this game and we were really against the wall fighting for our lives to get into the playoffs so this is a huge win. Our guys laid it on the line in order for us to get a 'W."'
Mike Accursi scored three goals, Dan Dawson and Cory Vitarelli got two each and Cody Jamieson, Ian Llord, Joel McCready, Craig Point and Brad Self added one each as the Knighthawks improved to 5-6 in front of a Blue Cross Arena crowd of 7,015.
Accursi was quick to credit the back end.
"Our defence and Matt Vinc are phenomenal," he said. "They are the best in the league and when they can hold a great team like (Toronto) to five goals, before their three late ones, you can't ask for anything more than that."
Accursi, a 38-year-old from Pelham, Ont., became the 11th player in pro indoor history to surpass 800 points.
"It's a great personal accomplishment but I'm more proud of the championships that I've won," he said.
Accursi is playing on the same side of the floor as is Dawson and the two are finally clicking after some early-season struggles.
"Wins for us this year in this building have been few and far between so this win, more than anything, is a big load off, especially for our fans," said Dawson, alluding to a home record that stood at a dismal 1-5 before the win. "We really let them down this season. We really appreciate them staying with us."
For the Rock, 9-5, Garrett Billings scored three, Colin Doyle two and Rob Hellyer, Scott Evans and Josh Sanderson one each. Nick Rose took the goaltending loss.
"I liked our effort," said coach Troy Cordingley. "We played well."
And hard: Toronto led 86-52 in picking up loose balls.
Rochester led 4-0 after one quarter, 5-3 after two and 7-4 after three.
The Rock moved to within 7-5 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter but then relinquished four consecutive Rochester goals in two minutes 47 seconds.
"Those few minutes and the fact their goaltender was outstanding," Cordingley replied when asked to pinpoint why the Rock lost. "We competed. We were good enough to win. Sometimes the games don't go your way."
Ice packs were in demand in the Rock dressing room after the punishment dished out by the Rochester defence. Getting Jon Sullivan, Scott Self and Jimmy Purves at the trading deadline and adding them to a corps that already included Sid Smith, Rory Glaves, Mike Kirk, Paul Dawson, Ian Llord, Dylan Evans and Scott Campbell made the Knighthawks one if not the toughest team to score against in the NLL.
"I'm impressed with their roster changes," said Billings. "A couple of teams gave them some really good players. I wasn't happy to see those trades. They've really beefed up. Everything starts with their goaltender. The same thing happened to us in the playoffs last year (against Rochester) when we put up 60 shots but Vinc held us out."
The two teams meet again next Sunday afternoon in Toronto.
NOTES: Pat Merrill fought McCready 18 seconds into the second quarter . . . On power plays, Toronto was 2 for 7 and Rochester was 0 for 2 . . . In a pre-game ceremony, Pat O'Toole became the 11th man inducted into the Knighthawks Hall of Fame. The former goalie, from Toronto, is one of Rochester's assistant coaches . . . Toronto deleted F Blaine Manning, T Kyle Belton and D Cam Woods . . . Rochester scratched F Stephen Keogh, T Jimmy Purves and D Jamie Batson . . . In the one previous meeting this year, Toronto won 11-7 in Rochester on Jan. 26, which was Toronto's fourth straight win in Rochester since a Jan. 30, 2010, loss.