It’s hard to believe that the Rochester Knighthawks are almost halfway through their third season in the National Lacrosse League.
Through the Knighthawks’ first seven games of the 2022-23 campaign, the team has seen their most success since their inception in 2019. Rochester started out the year with a six-game win streak, they’ve totaled 91 goals for, and the Knighthawks still remain in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 6-1 overall record.
With the halfway point of the season approaching, let’s look at how the rest of the Eastern Conference shapes up entering Week 10 action.
CURRENTLY IN SECOND: BUFFALO BANDITS
Not surprising that the Buffalo Bandits are right on the heels of the Knighthawks to start off the 2022-23 campaign.
Buffalo, which advanced to the NLL Finals for the second time in three years this past spring, currently sits in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 6-2 overall record and bring some heavy offensive firepower. Bandits forward Josh Byrne currently leads the league with his 25 goals, while forward Dhane Smith leads the league with his 38 assists 63 points.
Veteran netminder Matt Vinc has been a mainstay between the pipes. He and Knighthawks goaltender Rylan Hartley are currently tied for the league lead with six wins each while the 16-year pro is the only netminder in the league to surpass the 300-save mark this season with 333 through eight games. In the previous matchup between the two teams, Vinc became the first goaltender in league history to play more than 14,000 minutes in goal.
This weekend, the Bandits and Knighthawks are in action in none other than Bandit-land. The 7:30 p.m. faceoff will be season series finale between the clubs this season and will be available on Big 107.3 and ESPN+.
CURRENTLY IN THIRD: TORONTO ROCK
In third we have the Toronto Rock, who the Knighthawks handed an 11-7 loss to back on Dec. 10.
Currently, the Rock have a 5-2 record while allowing just 60 goals-against through their first seven games of the season. Coming into the 2022-23 campaign, the Rock brought a lot of returning faces like forward Tom Schreiber and goaltender Nick Rose back to their roster, while bringing in newcomers like forward Corey Small, who’s made a major impact this season, sitting second on the team with his 31 points.
This Saturday, the Rock take on the New York Riptide for the second time this season, with the matchup slated to start at 7 p.m.
CURRENTLY IN FOURTH: HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS
Just like we said going into last week’s matchup against the Halifax Thunderbirds, they’re a team that can get back on track on any given night. Unfortunately, the fourth place Thunderbirds got back on track with a 17-7 win over Rochester last Friday night.
With a 4-3 overall record, the Thunderbirds are led offensively by four forwards who are all over the 30-point mark on the season in Randy Staats, Clarke Petterson, Cody Jamieson and Ryan Benesch. At the face-off dot, Halifax has defenseman Jake Withers, who has gone 166-for-202 on face-offs this season and leads the league with 98 loose ball recoveries. Between the pipes, goaltenders Warren Hill and Drew Hutchison have split time in all seven games for Halifax this season, while Hill has helped lift the team to three wins on the year in the 274 minutes he’s played.
This weekend, the Thunderbirds look to continue their roll against a Western Conference opponent in the Calgary Roughnecks. The Saturday night matchup is set to take place at 6 p.m. at Scotiabank Centre.
CURRENTLY IN FIFTH: ALBANY FIREWOLVES
While the FireWolves are sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, they’re just another team that’s trying to make a statement for themselves this year in the NLL. Now, the FireWolves did have a little leverage after their first week of play by defeating the Bandits 11-10, however, Albany has struggled through its first five games of the season, going 2-3 overall.
Albany newcomer Kieran McArdle leads the FireWolves offense with 23 points on 10 goals and 13 assists, while forwards Connor Kelly and Tanner Thomson aren’t far behind with 22 and 20 points, respectively. In net, goaltender Doug Jamieson has racked up 22:19 minutes while appearing in four games with Albany, while Justin Geddie has seen time in all five of Albany’s matchups this season, allowing just 20 goals against.
The FireWolves get back in action this weekend after a two-week hiatus from games. On Saturday, Albany will take on the Philadelphia Wings at 7 p.m.
CURRENTLY IN SIXTH: PHILADELPHIA WINGS
The Philadelphia Wings don’t sit too far back in the standings from the FireWolves. While the Wings are in sixth place, they have a 2-4 overall record and can right the ship this weekend to make it a two-way tie for that fifth-place spot.
At the face-off dot, transition player Trevor Baptiste has gone 92-for-144, while defenseman Ryan Wagner has 10 blocked shots on the season, which is tied for first in the NLL. Offensively, the Wings are led by forward Joe Resetarits, a former Knighthawk in the previous organization, and his 33 points on 13 goals and 20 assists. In the crease, goaltender Zach Higgins has racked up 289 minutes while making 205 saves for a 76% save percentage.
Again, the Wings are taking on the FireWolves at the Wells Fargo Center. Home turf might just be what they need to tie up the fifth-place spot in the East.
CURRENTLY IN SEVENTH: NEW YORK RIPTIDE
In their second season in the NLL, the New York Riptide are sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with just a 1-5 record. The Riptide’s lone win of the year came two weeks back against the FireWolves.
New York’s offense is led by reigning NLL Rookie of the Year Jeff Teat, who has posted 44 points on 16 goals and 28 assists through six games. In net, it’s truly a tossup as to who will be between the pipes on any given night, as both goaltenders Gowah Abrams or Steve Orleman have appeared in every game with the Riptide this season. However, Orleman has the slight edge with 300 minutes in the crease and 194 saves.
The Riptide have no easy task in taking on the Rock this Saturday night at FirstOntario Centre at 7 p.m.
CURRENTLY IN EIGHTH: GEORGIA SWARM
Last, but not least, we have a slightly shocking eighth place contender for the Eastern Conference in the Georgia Swarm. The Swarm have yet to win a game this season, going 0-4 and scoring a league low 41 goals through those first four matchups of the season.
Which, again, is surprising considering Georgia returned forward Lyle Thompson, along with Andrew Kew, Shayne Jackson and Brendan Bomberry. However, none of these offensive powerhouses are over the 30-point mark yet this season, with Kew leading the way with just 21 points on seven goals and 14 assists. In the crease, goaltenders Craig Wende and Brett Dobson have spent equal time between the pipes with both netminders appearing in all four games and both having two losses on the year.
Georgia is yet another Eastern Conference team that won’t see divisional play this weekend. Instead, the Swarm will take on the Colorado Mammoth on Friday night with a 9 p.m. face-off.