It was a weekend full of milestones for the Rochester Knighthawks in their 16-14 win over the Halifax Thunderbirds, which of course, is another validation of just how deep the Knighthawks offensive core truly is.
On Saturday, we saw rookie forward Thomas Vela produce his first two professional goals, second-year Knighthawk Ryan Smith record his 100th pro point and leading point-getter Connor Fields inch closer to the single-season goal-scoring record, currently held by Smith, following another four-goal effort.
One night. Two milestones with another within reach. And it seems the offensive production just keeps piling on as the Knighthawks are only halfway through the 2022-23 campaign.
“It’s not just one guy. It’s multiple guys doing their jobs,” explained Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen after Saturday’s win. “We do it by committee, and again, those guys (Vela, Smith and Fields) are having success and that’s great to see, but at the end of the day, I think, as a group, it’s more important what we’re all doing as a team right now.”
While the Knighthawks may be producing offense by committee, we took it upon ourselves to highlight the milestones that were achieved this past weekend. After all, we know there’s only more to come for this team with nine games remaining in the Knighthawks 2022-23 season.
THOMAS VELA – FIRST PROFESSIONAL GOALS
On Saturday, Vela was given the chance to appear in his second game with the Knighthawks after Hasen and staff decided to go with eight forwards rather than seven. This opportunity proved to be massive for Vela after the game he put together.
We still cannot get over Thomas Vela’s first NLL goal from Saturday night 🤩
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) February 13, 2023
Vela went on to produce a pair of goals Saturday night against the Thunderbirds. Vela’s first came on a shorthanded opportunity in the first quarter at Segar & Sciortino Field and all the pressure slowly faded away with just 2:39 to go in the first frame.
“The first one’s always a lot of pressure, but it felt good to get the monkey off the back early in the game and obviously it helped us swing momentum a little bit,” said Vela after the game when asked how it was to find the back of the net for the first time professionally. “I just found a groove, I was working hard, setting seals, setting picks, just getting through and creating some space for me and some others. Obviously, it worked out for me, so I just need to keep doing that.”
Recapping Thomas Vela’s Saturday night: pic.twitter.com/HbR2eB1MjY
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) February 17, 2023
Vela’s second marker of the night came during four-on-four action in the second quarter at the 10:32 mark.
RYAN SMITH – 100TH PROFESSIONAL POINT
With his primary assist on forward Holden Cattoni’s power-play goal in the second frame of Saturday’s game, Smith recorded his 100th pro point in in just his second season in the NLL.
“To be honest, I had no idea it was coming,” laughed Smith when asked about reaching the prolific milestone so soon. “I guess it feels pretty good, but even better, I got it in a win. So, that’s all that matters.”
This season, Smith is once again in the tops on the Knighthawks roster in all offensive categories. The second-year pro ranks third with 42 points and 19 goals and fourth with 23 assists.
1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ CAREER POINTS!
With his assist on Cattoni’s second goal last night, Ryan Smith hit 100 career NLL points! Congrats Smitty 👏 pic.twitter.com/fZlc8SlJ0J
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) February 12, 2023
Not to forget the nine-point effort Smith posted just a few weeks back in Rochester’s 15-12 victory over the Buffalo Bandits and veteran netminder Matt Vinc on Jan. 20.
So, it’s safe to say that Smith has already made a massive impact in his short time in Rochester.
Last season with Rochester, Smith finished second among NLL rookies with 35 goals and third with 59 points. While Smith was named to the NLL All-Rookie Team for the 2021-22 season, he led all first-year players with a franchise record eight power-play goals and ranked third among rookies in overall power-play scoring with 15 points.
Fields ➡️ Smith ➡️ IN
— NLL (@NLL) February 12, 2023
Smith is once again leading the team in power-play production with 14 points (6+8) when the Knighthawks are a man-up.
CONNOR FIELDS – APPROACHING SINGLE-SEASON FRANCHISE RECORD FOR GOALS
At this point in the season, we’re no longer surprised at the games that Fields has been stringing together.
Connor Fields has been paying dividends for the @RocKnighthawks after they acquired him in the offseason. A threat to score at any second, fans are ready to jump up and celebrate whenever he has the ball.#NLLMidSeasonMVP pic.twitter.com/cJ1EkRvp3N
— NLL (@NLL) February 16, 2023
After Saturday’s eight-point performance, Fields has now posted a hat trick in seven of his eight games this season. The forward also is tied for the league lead with his 28 goals and is now fourth in overall scoring with 54 points, just 13 shy from matching his previous career-high of 67 he set last season with Buffalo.
Hat tricks in 7 of his 8 games so far this season…
Connor Fields is very good at lacrosse. pic.twitter.com/oQ9zM5olrJ
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) February 16, 2023
Following the bye week this week, the Knighthawks resume their 2022-23 campaign on Saturday, Feb. 25 when they host the New York Riptide at 7 p.m. at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The matchup will be the second and final meeting between the intrastate rivals this season and will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.