Holden Cattoni entered his fourth year in the National Lacrosse League on a brand-new roster in a different city than years before, right here in the Flower City.
As the fourth-year pro was coming off a banner year back in 2018-19, Cattoni had just one goal in mind when it came to be a key component in helping the expansion-era Rochester Knighthawks embark on their inaugural season.
“I knew coming into training camp there was a lot of excitement about being a new team and setting the foundation for the franchise moving forward. But for as far as what I wanted personally, I just wanted to be a leader,” said Cattoni, who was acquired by Rochester from the Georgia Swarm during the 2019 NLL Expansion Draft.
For Cattoni, it seemed to be the same story that he had written in seasons past, just a different chapter with the new squad he was rocking on the front of his jersey.
He established himself as one of the NLL’s elite point-getters this past season, finishing sixth in the league in scoring while pacing the Knighthawks in goals (24), assists (38) and points (62) on his way to earning Offensive Player of the Year honors for the team’s inaugural campaign. The fourth-year pro also ranked ninth among NLL leaders in goals and assists and tied for fifth with a team-high 12 power-play assists, eight of which came over his last seven games of the season.
A native of Calgary, Alberta, Cattoni averaged nearly five points per game through 12 games this season, and was one of only two Knighthawks to record at least one point in every contest he appeared in. He reached the 50-point mark for the third straight year, and up until the NLL’s stoppage of play on March 12, was on pace to shatter his career-high 80-point campaign which he set during the 2018-19 campaign as a member of the Georgia Swarm.
Cattoni’s best performance of the season came back on Jan. 11 when he scored five of Rochester’s 12 goals in a 13-12 loss to the Toronto Rock at Scotiabank Arena, replicating a feat he’s accomplished just four other times throughout his professional career. The 5-foot-11, 216-pound forward followed that up with a season-high 10-point effort with three goals and seven assists in the 16-15 loss at Buffalo to close out the month of January.
With six games unanswered after the official cancellation of the 2019-20 season, it comes as no surprise that Cattoni would’ve liked to have had a couple of more wins under his belt on top of reaching new highs within his NLL career.
“I think it was a good year overall and it was successful. Obviously, we would’ve liked to have a couple of more wins and I think we let a few slip through our fingers, but those are all building blocks for a new and young team,” he said looking back on the season.
The Knighthawks ended their inaugural season with a 2-10 record but were beginning to click more and more with each and every game that came their way. From a team that lost its first outing 14-4, the Knighthawks went on to have five one-goal games during their last nine contests with two of those coming out as wins and two going into overtime action.
On top of being a brand-new team and a roster made up of 10 rookies, Cattoni has no doubt that the Knighthawks will be in a good spot come next season as other expansion teams have shown in the past how just one year can completely turn things around.
“I think we’re in a good spot. We have a good template to look at with the Philadelphia Wings; they only won three or four games the year prior and we were on track to do the same thing. They came back this year having that experience, a little bit hungrier and just a better team overall. That’s something we can look forward to and hope to strive to become next year”
Speaking of setting the focus to the 2020-21 campaign, the fourth-year pro has some personal goals in mind that will help he and his teammates come back better than ever as he looks to add more chemistry to the mix.
“I’m going to look at the tape and see where I could’ve been better. Obviously, we don’t play perfect games out there and I’d like to watch more of my teammates as well so that we can have even better chemistry.”
By the time the 2020-21 NLL season gets underway, there’s potential of an eight-to-10-month period where no lacrosse will be played between the professional box and field leagues. For a majority of the guys, this is the longest period of time that any of them have gone without playing the game that they love.
So, what is it that Cattoni is excited for when he finally gets to hit the floor again?
WATCH: YEAR IN REVIEW WITH HOLDEN CATTONI
“I think just playing lacrosse again. With the summer leagues being canceled as well, we’re probably looking at about eight to 10 months off. I don’t think I’ve had that since I was maybe 12 years old. It’s going to be a long way off, so just being around the guys in the locker room again will be the most rewarding part.”
As rewarding as it is for the players on the roster, it’ll be just as rewarding for all of the fans here in Rochester to finally see their Knighthawks take the turf again at The Blue Cross Arena at Segar & Sciortino Field whenever that time finally comes around.