|Matt Vinc is shining in net for the Peterborough Lakers in the playoffs. (Photo: Tim Prothero)|
Story courtesy Craig Rybczynski, Rochester Knighthawks
Goalie Matt Vinc has made a career out of winning big games. On Tuesday night, he again showed why he is one of the most accomplished goalie in lacrosse. Vinc turned aside 41 shots in a 6-4 Peterborough win over the first-place Six Nations Chiefs in Game 1 of the Major Series Lacrosse Finals.
“By far he was the best player on the floor,” said Peterborough Lakers defenseman Mike Kirk. “We had some breakdowns and took some penalties in the second, but he bailed us out every time. He was just awesome.”
Game 1 was a goaltending duel between Lakers’ Vinc and the Chiefs’ Dillon Ward, who were both stellar in the series’ opening game. The two netminders combined for 37 saves in the first period as the teams battled to a 2-2 tie after one. The second period featured only three goals as Ward and Vinc fought off numerous transition opportunities. In the final period, however, Peterborough broke open the game early in the third on goals by Cory Vitarelli and Curtis Dickson (3+2) to build a 6-3 lead.
It was in the fourth that Vinc made his best saves of the game. With the game tightening up at 6-4 and Six Nations putting on the pressure, he stopped 88-point man Ryan Benesch on the doorstep and then batted away the rebound attempt by Johnny Powless – while lying on his back.
“He is a big game guy,” said Lakers defenseman Scott Self. “He has played in Mann Cups, Minto Cups and Champion’s Cups. The pressure definitely doesn’t get to Matty. It’s just another big game for him.”
At 33 years old, Vinc has already won his share of championships as a goalie, winning two Minto Cups, three Champion’s Cup and a World Indoor Lacrosse Championship with Team Canada. In 2013, he also led the Victoria Shamrocks to the Mann Cup Finals. In the National Lacrosse League, he is also the only four-time winner of the league’s Goaltender of the Year award. Vinc won two of those honors while with the Rochester Knighthawks.In Peterborough, the Lakers have surrounded Vinc with some of the same defenders he has in Rochester. With Scott and Brad Self, and Mike Kirk patrolling the defensive side, and head coach Mike Hasen and assistant coach Paul Day both on the Lakers’ bench, Vinc has posted impressive numbers similar to those in Rochester. So far this postseason, he is 5-1 with a 7.07 goals-against average and an .835 save percentage for the Lakers.
“He is the best goalie in the game right now and the key to our defense. It’s the same in Rochester,” said Day, who serves as the Lakers general manager. “He is our anchor and our success starts with him. He makes everyone around him better.”
After the win Tuesday in Six Nations, Vinc made sure to credit his defense for limiting the regular season’s highest-scoring offense to just four goals.
“The Self brothers and ‘Kirky’ are guys who know how I like the defense to be run,” said Vinc. “We played really well defensively tonight. Hopefully, we can do that again on Thursday and play tough Peterborough defense.”
Game 2 is set for tonight at 8:00 p.m. at the Peterborough Memorial Centre. The game is available live via JVI Sports Network webcasts. Vinc and the Lakers are preparing for a hungry Chiefs team bent on evening the best-of-seven series.
“We know this series is far from over,” said Vinc. “We took Game 1 last year and we ended up on the wrong side. I think we need to just keep playing every period one shift at a time. Hopefully, (this time) we will come out on the positive end.”