TONIGHT’S GAME OVERVIEW
The Rochester Knighthawks (3-1) return home looking to get back in the win column tonight when they welcome the defending NLL champion Buffalo Bandits (2-2) to Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena in a rematch of the 2023 Quarterfinals. The 7:00 matchup will be the first of two scheduled meetings between the two teams this season and will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.
SEASON SERIES BREAKDOWN
The intrastate rivals are slated to meet twice this season for the second straight year with both contests occurring over a three-week span. The teams split the season series a year ago with each winning on home turf before the Bandits spoiled Rochester’s first-ever playoff appearance with a convincing 20-8 win over the Knighthawks in the opening round of the 2023 NLL Playoffs on their way to capturing their second NLL title in four years. Buffalo has claimed five of the first six matchups between the two teams dating back to the Knighthawks’ inaugural 2019-20 campaign, with Rochester’s only win over that span coming nearly a year ago on Jan. 20 of last season. The Knighthawks outscored Buffalo 10-4 in the second half, including 5-1 in the fourth quarter, to earn their first win in franchise history and extend their win streak to a franchise-record six straight games. In addition to the renewal of one of the NLL’s fiercest rivalries tonight, the matchup itself features the top offense go up against the fourth ranked defense. The Knighthawks come into the weekend averaging a league-best 14.25 goals per game while their 57 goals scored ranks second in the NLL behind only Albany, which is off to its best start in franchise history having won five straight games to open the season. Conversely, Buffalo is averaging the fourth-fewest goals-against per game with 10.75 through its first four games of the season. Anchored by veteran goaltender Matt Vinc, the Bandits have held the opposition to fewer than 10 goals in each of their last three games dating back to their 12-9 win over San Diego on Dec. 16. After tonight’s matchup, the teams will close out their season series with one final get-together in Buffalo on Feb. 3.
LAST TIME OUT
A pair of three-goal runs by the San Diego Seals ultimately proved to be the difference as Rochester suffered its first loss of the season in a 17-14 setback at Pechanga Arena on Dec. 29. Ryan Smith (3+3) and Ryan Lanchbury (2+3) led the Knighthawks offense as they combined for 11 points while Connor Fields (3+2) and Thomas McConvey (3+2) both tallied hat tricks. Kyle Waters (1+3), Matt Gilray (1+2) and Austin Hasen (0+2) all had multi-assist outings. Mitch Oglivie completed the scoring while Pent Eistrat, who made his pro debut, and Dan Lomas each notched an assist. Riley Hutchcraft (2-0) made his first start of the season and appeared in his fourth game overall. He finished the contest with 37 saves, which included 13 and 10 in the third and fourth quarter, respectively.
100 AND COUTING FOR HASEN
The 13-11 home win over Vancouver back on Dec. 23 came with historical significance in the fact that not only did the Knighthawks jump out to a 3-0 start for the second straight year, but also served as the 100th win for Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen, who became just the sixth coach in league history to reach 100 career wins. Hasen surpassed legendary head coach Les Bartley for sixth all-time following the win over Halifax on Feb. 11 of last season, making him one of three finalists for the 2023 NLL Coach of the Year. He also joined elite company back on March 25 in Las Vegas, when he was behind the bench for his 200th regular-season game, a feat only five others in league history have accomplished before him. He became just the sixth head coach – and third last season behind Georgia’s Ed Comeau and Vancouver’s Troy Cordingley – to have coached 200 National Lacrosse League games. Hasen also owns the distinction of being the only member of the prestigious group to reach the mark having spent his entire career in the same city. One of the most decorated coaches in league history, Hasen is certainly no stranger to Rochester, having previously served as head coach of the former Knighthawks franchise from 2011 to 2019. Hasen’s most successful run at the helm of the Knighthawks came from 2012-14 when he made National Lacrosse League history by leading Rochester to an unprecedented three straight Champion’s Cups. Hasen, who was named the NLL Coach of the Year in 2011, remains the only NLL bench boss to accomplish the feat.
Coming into this weekend, the Knighthawks currently rank fifth in the NLL with 317 total shots taken, 223 of which have been on goal, and rank second behind only Halifax in average shots per game (79.25). Rochester has outshot the opposition in three of its first four games this season, three times topping the 50-shot mark, including a season-high 64 in the team’s season-opening 14-13 win over Calgary on Dec. 2. The Knighthawks are 2-1 this season when outshooting the opponent and 2-1 when surpassing the 50-shot mark. Connor Fields set the new franchise record for the most shots in a game with 21 in the 17-14 loss at San Diego, besting the 18 he had against Calgary on Dec. 2.
Second-year face-off specialist Joe Post has been nearly unbeatable at the center dot this season, sitting third in the league with 74 face-off wins on 122 attempts for a 60.7% success rate while also ranking third with 45 loose ball recoveries. Post’s 24 face-off wins last month in Saskatchewan set the new single-game mark, far surpassing his own record of 19 he set in the 2022-23 regular-season finale against Philadelphia on April 29. Dating back to his rookie season, Post, who played his collegiate lacrosse at nearby St. John Fisher University, has won 137-of-253 career face-off attempts, good for a 54.2% efficiency rate.
READY TO ‘LANCH’
Rochester’s acquisition of forward Ryan Lanchbury has been nothing short of impressive since coming over to the Knighthawks following a Week 2 trade with the Georgia Swarm. After only three games this season with Rochester, Lanchbury ranks third on the team in scoring with 16 points while his six goals are fourth-most. Following a four-point effort in his Knighthawks debut at Saskatchewan on Dec. 9, Lanchbury finished with a team-high seven points (2+5) in the 13-11 win over Vancouver, marking the first time in 20 games that someone other than Connor Fields led the team in scoring. With 16 points in three games this season, the Burlington, Ontario, native has already matched his total offensive output that he had in 10 games with Georgia during his rookie campaign in 2022-23.
McCONVEY MAKING HIS MARK
After being held scoreless in Rochester’s season-opening win over Calgary, rookie forward Thomas McConvey has settled in and found his scoring touch that made him worthy of being selected first overall by Rochester in the 2022 NLL Entry Draft. The rookie forward is coming off a season-high five-point outing in the 17-14 loss to San Diego, including his second hat trick of the season. Averaging 3.25 points per game through his first four games, McConvey enters the contest tied for second amongst all NLL rookies in goals (7), third in assists (6) and third in points (13). He’s also tied for fifth in loose ball recoveries (16) and points per game (3.25). The highly touted forward, one of eight to make Rochester’s season-opening roster, signed a multi-year deal with the Knighthawks after being named the nation’s top midfielder this past season as a fifth-year graduate student at the University of Virginia. He was also one of three Cavaliers players to be named a USILA First Team All-American in 2023. Prior to Virginia, McConvey was a three-time USILA and Inside Lacrosse All-American at the University of Vermont.
HAVE A FIELD DAY
With the Knighthawks coming off another by week, Connor Fields has fallen to fourth in the league in scoring with 27 points (13+14) in four games, tying him with Buffalo’s Dhane Smith and Josh Byrne. Originally a first-round pick (10th overall) of the San Diego Seals in 2018, Fields, who was named the Gatorade Player of the Week for Week 2, is also tied for fourth in the NLL with 13 goals while his 68 shots are second-most. Additionally, Fields is second amongst all NLL forwards with 31 loose ball recoveries, just two back of Georgia’s Andrew Kew for the league lead in that category. With another three-goal effort against San Diego, the East Amherst native has now scored two or more goals in 21 straight games dating back to last season. Fields, who last season became just the third American-born player to top the 100-point mark, has led the team in scoring in 16 of his last 21 outings and has recorded at least one point in 51 of his 53 career games dating back to his rookie campaign in San Diego.
SCOUTING THE BANDITS
The defending NLL champions make their lone trip to Rochester fueled by the offensive duo of two-time NLL MVP Dhane Smith and Josh Byrne, who have combined for 14 goals and 54 points through Buffalo’s first four games this season. The well-balanced Bandits return all but two players from last year’s championship squad, including veteran netminder Matt Vinc, who’s back for his fifth season in Buffalo and 18th overall. An eight-time NLL Goaltender of the Year, Vinc spent eight seasons with the previous Knighthawks franchise, backstopping the team to three straight NLL championships. Vinc, who’s also an eight-time NLL All-Pro First-Team selection, is the all-time leader in minutes played (14,973) saves (9,941), and wins (149). Tonight, Vinc will surpass 15,000 minutes for his NLL pro career.