The National Lacrosse League’s highly anticipated return to New York State’s capital region for the first time since 2003 was spoiled by an offensive explosion by the Rochester Knighthawks (2-1), who dominated from start to finish on their way to a 16-7 thrashing of the Albany FireWolves Saturday at the Times Union Center.
The win improves Rochester to 2-1 on the young season, already matching their win total from their inaugural 2019-20 campaign, while Albany remains winless at 0-2.
For the third straight week, Holden Cattoni (4+5) paved the way for the Knighthawks offense with a team-high nine-point effort with four goals and five assists, while rookie forward Ryan Smith (3+2) had his first multi-goal effort in the NLL while adding on two assists. Rookie forward Charlie Bertrand (3+2) continued his torrid start to the 2021-22 campaign with three goals and an assist, while forwards Shawn Evans (1+4), Curtis Knight (1+4), Thomas Hoggarth (1+3) and Turner Evans (1+4), defenseman Doug Utting (1+0) and transition man Ryland Rees (1+0) all produced a goal apiece.
Knighthawks goaltender Rylan Hartley (1-0) got his first start of the 2021-22 campaign, making 27 saves on 31 shots. This marked Hartley’s first win of the season and first since Feb. 29, 2020 against the New York Riptide. Netminder Joel Watson made his first appearance of the year, getting 11:54 of action and making eight saves on 11 shots.
Transition player Tony Malcolm (1+1) and forwards Andrew Kew (1+1) and Jacob Ruest (1+0) all tacked on a goal apiece. Forward Reilly O’Connor recorded a two-point effort with two assists, while Colton Watkinson (0+3) added three assists and forward Joe Resetarits (3+0) turned in three goals. Defenseman Jackson Nishimura (1+0) rounded out the scoring for Albany with a goal on the night.
Albany netminder Doug Jamieson (0-2-0) made his second start of the year, getting the loss while stopping 31 of 47 shots he faced in the crease. Ethan Woods made his first appearance of the 2021-22 campaign, getting 48 seconds in net.
Despite the FireWolves opening the scoring in the first quarter, the Knighthawks would set out on a four-goal run to give them their first and only lead that they needed in the contest.
WATCH: CATTONI NETS HIS THIRD OF THE GAME
With a pick-and-slip inside by Bertrand, the rookie forward notched his fourth goal of the season to tie the score at one apiece 5:47 into the first frame. Cattoni followed suit less than a minute later, picking the top corner of the goal to give the Knighthawks the lead with his team-leading seventh of the season.
It took only 22 seconds later for Smith to find the back of the net for his first marker in the NLL while on the man-advantage before Hoggarth wrapped up the scoring in the first at the 8:23 mark. On a shovel pass from Smith, Hoggarth caught the ball in front of the crease and shoved it past Jamieson to set the score at 4-1.
Albany’s Kew cut the score in half before the quarter’s end with his fifth of the season to make it 4-2.
Heading into the second, Rochester went on another four-goal run to take a commanding 8-2 lead.
Just 17 seconds into the stanza, Knight would slip to the front of the FireWolves net and shoot the ball down low to make the score 5-2. Turner Evans would get his second assist on the night with the secondary helper on Knight’s marker, which marked 100th assist in the NLL.
Things began to get physical from there, as Knighthawks defenseman Tyler Biles delivered a monstrous hit 12 seconds later, resulting in bout with Albany’s Watkinson just 29 seconds into the second frame.
After the penalties on both sides expired, Cattoni then would find his second goal of the contest, and eighth on the season, with a side-arm shot from the outside to beat Jamieson to the far side of the net. Turner Evans then notched his second of the season at the 6:25 mark on the power-play before Smith found his second of the night. As Smith ducked around an Albany defenseman, he’d find his way underneath to send a shot to the far side 8:51 into the quarter to make it 8-2.
With 4:28 left to go in the second frame, Albany would finally find its first goal of the quarter and first since the 10:42 mark of the first quarter. Ruest notched his second of the season for the FireWolves’ first and only power-play marker of the night to set the score at 8-3 going into the half.
The goal-scoring would continue for the Knighthawks heading into the third quarter as they would go back-to-back to kick it off.
Making it seven different goal-scorers just 1:35 into the third frame, Shawn Evans found his first of the night. On a shot from the outside, Evans didn’t overthink his shot, but instead forced Jamieson to try and make a save, which resulted in Rochester’s ninth marker of the contest to make it 9-3.
Later in the quarter, Utting would come up big on transition. After Albany got the initial shot on Hartley, the Knighthawks took it away on transition with Utting burying the ball down low on the run at the 7:35 mark to make it 10-3 in Rochester’s favor.
Before the quarter’s end, Resetarits would get on the board for Albany to set the score at 10-4 with 3:35 to go in the frame with his first marker of the 2021-22 campaign. However, Bertrand would capitalize for the Knighthawks on a shorthanded opportunity. With just 2:30 to go in the third frame, Bertrand would find his fifth of the season by dodging the Albany defense and beating Jamieson up top with an unbalanced finish for his second of the night and to finish the third with the Knighthawks ahead 11-4.
As the final frame ensued, Rochester once again continued to up the score in its favor just seconds in. Cattoni would notch his third hat trick on the year with his ninth marker 45 seconds into the stanza before Rees and Hartley connected for the Knighthawks 13th goal of the contest. With Rees’ second goal of the season and lone of the game, it would now mark nine different goal-scorers for Rochester on the night.
WATCH: GOALIE FIGHT BETWEEN HARTLEY AND WOODS
Minutes after Rochester’s 13th goal, tempers really began to flare as both sides engaged in several confrontations along the team benches, culminating in a goalie duel between Hartley and Woods. When the dust settled, a total of 32 penalty minutes would be assessed for the melee as well as the ejection of both goaltenders.
With both teams having to start shorthanded due to the resulting penalties, Rochester would start back on the power-play as play resumed. However, Nishimura would tally a shorthanded marker for Albany’s fifth goal of the night.
When it got back to even strength, Bertrand would complete his first hat trick of the season 6:10 into the final frame. With each of Bertrand’s markers being scored in different ways, this one would come with a sweep across the top in which he would pound in the ball for his third of the evening to set the score at 14-5.
From then on, the teams would exchange goals before the final buzzer hit. Both Cattoni and Smith would knock in one more on the night to seal the 16-7 win for Rochester.
The Knighthawks return home following a two-week layoff for their first matchup of the New Year on Saturday, Jan. 8 when they host the reigning NLL champion Calgary Roughnecks at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7 p.m. start and will be carried live on 107.3 FM The Bull as well as ESPN+.