Jun 24, 2012

2012 Cup at Rattlers.jpgBy Craig Rybczynski -- On a balmy 80-degree night, the Knighthawks returned to Rochester to a Championship reception at Sahlen’s Stadium. Matt Vinc and Pat McCready stood in the middle of hundreds of youth lacrosse players and signed autographs and posed for pictures with the Champion’s Cup. (Main Photo by Rich Barnes)

Prior to the Rochester Rattlers’ game against the visiting Hamilton Nationals, Vinc and McCready hauled the 47-pound trophy to midfield to a loud ovation from the crowd of nearly 5,000 fans. Cody Jamieson, Joe Walters, Stephen Keogh and Joel White – who were playing in the game – were also introduced. Owner and General Manager Curt Styres and President Lewis Staats proudly followed the players out on the turf and watched the Rochester Knighthawks Championship Tribute Video.

Rochester won the 2012 Champion’s Cup on May 19th, defeating the Edmonton Rush 9-6. Vinc made 46 saves and Jamieson recorded eight points to win Championship Game MVP honors. It was Vinc’s first trip to Rochester since winning the Cup and he loved every minute.

“As soon as I walked in and started talking to people I started getting goose bumps. It was a surreal feeling,” said Vinc, who signed over 150 autographs. “Just interacting with the fans and seeing how appreciative that they are that we won it, means so much more. Just holding the Cup, it’s almost like I dream and I am just happy to be in it.”

For McCready, it was his third time back for a Cup celebration. The Knighthawks’ captain previously threw out the first pitch at a Rochester Red Wings and was part of the team’s Championship Parade. The trip was Rochester was another chance to share his victory with the fans.

“Great night at the park, good to see the boys again,” said McCready. “It is great out here. If I lived closer I would be at every one of these games. It’s a beautiful venue.”

The Rattlers used the game as inspiration and defeated the Hamilton Nationals 17-10 to break a four-game losing streak to their Major League Lacrosse rivals. White scored his third goal of the season and collected five ground balls.

The Nationals also got contributions from all three Knighthawks. Walters was in championship form as he had a hand in seven of the 10 Hamilton goals. He scored three times, which included a two-pointer, and added three assists to become the first player to reach 100 points as a National. Jamieson added a single tally, and Keogh scored twice and chipped in one assist.

The Cup Tour continued on Sunday with Walters, a West Irondequoit High School grad, taking the Cup to the Irondequoit Invitational. The 15th installment of the event was the largest in tournament history and included teams as far away as Texas and Newmarket, Ontario. Walters, more than any other player, understood the importance of giving back to the community and showcasing the Cup.

“It’s always nice getting out to the Irondequoit Tournament. I try to make it every year, and I continue to be impressed with the coordination and growth of the event,” said Walters.

He even had a moment of levity with some youngsters who asked if the Cup was for the tournament champions. Although the youth lacrosse players did not leave with the Champion’s Cup in tow, Walters told the kids the trophy was not out of reach.

“With hard work and dedication, winning an NLL Championship is a goal every lacrosse player should have,” said Walters, who lived and achieved that same dream.

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