Jun 6, 2018

pdawson 5.jpgBy Craig Rybczynski -- After the Rochester Knighthawks’ Game Two victory, there was plenty of praise to go around. There was another stellar effort in goal from Matt Vinc; Graeme Hossack was doing Graeme Hossack things, and Josh Currier was setting new career highs in goals and points.

One player who did not garner the spotlight, but was equally as valuable in the must-win game, was defenseman Paul Dawson. The 12-year pro was a dominating presence on both ends of the floor. Not only did he help the Knighthawks limit the Saskatchewan Rush offense to a season-low eight goals, but he contributed to Rochester’s transition game.

“He kept his game really simple,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “When the opportunity presented itself, he pushed the ball up the floor. He was a leader and a steady presence like he has been all year. I think he has had a dynamite season.”

Dawson showcased his playmaking abilities in the five-goal second quarter as the Knighthawks broke open a 3-3 game. Just 26 seconds into the frame, he rocketed a pass to Austin Shanks that led to a short-handed goal, which gave Rochester a 4-3 lead. The goal re-energized the crowd and the Knighthawks’ bench.

“It was a reversal of Game One when they scored short-handed,” said Hasen. “It was good for us because it gave us momentum.”

“I was pretty pumped up,” said Dawson about the goal, which he celebrated with a fist pump near midfield. “It was a short-handed goal, and those are pretty tough to come by against their power play. To get one was huge and it gave us the lead back. It was a nice catch and bury by Shanks.”

But Dawson was not done. At 12:42 of the second, his feed from behind-the-net was buried by Cory Vitarelli to make it 8-4. Rochester would go on to outscore the Rush 5-4 in the second half to capture Game Two of the best-of-three series.

In the home win, Dawson tied his career high with two assists, and recorded two loose balls and one faceoff win, while forcing three turnovers. It was a complete effort from a complete player.

“We need players who can play in each and every situation,” said Hasen. “Paul is out there on faceoffs, special teams and in every other situation. There is never a second thought to putting Paul Dawson on the floor.”

During the regular season, the Oakville, Ontario native completed one of his most outstanding seasons yet. Dawson tied his career high by playing in all 18 games while collecting the second-most loose balls of his career (71) and the third most points (10). This season marks his sixth in Rochester after being acquired in December 2011, along with his brother, Dan. A former NLL goalie, Paul has matured into one of the top defensemen in the league. Saturday was just another example of the how he can impact a game.

“What a game Pauly had,” said Knighthawks defenseman Scott Campbell. “Defensively he was a beast. He has his hands full each shift because he is typically matched up against (Mark) Matthews, who is one of the best lefties in the game right now. All Paul does is force three turnovers. 

“We knew we had to be better and faster in transition to beat the Rush and Paul was great in transition,” added Campbell. “He was a big reason we were able to beat their press, and he had two of the nicest assists I’ve seen this year. You would have thought he was an ‘O’ guy with that floor vision... not a former goalie.”

The NLL Finals now shifts back to Saskatoon for a decisive third game on Saturday, June 9. Dawson has been here before, winning the 2013 and 2014 championships in the old winner-take-all one-game format.

Winning this time would be one of the highlights of his career because of the way the Knighthawks have battled back all season. Not only did they rebound from a 2-6 start, but rallied from one-game down in the NLL Finals.

“To force Game Three was amazing, but we have one more game to go to complete it,” said Dawson. “To be in this position shows the character of the guys. We just kept chipping away. All we wanted was to get that point where we had a chance to win. Now we have it.”

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