It turned out to be a successful weekend in Georgia for the Rochester Knighthawks, but it did not come easy. The Swarm entered contest this past Sunday with a 2-8 record whereas the Knighthawks, who held an 8-2 mark, were looking to snap a three-game road skid.
At the end of Sunday’s contest between the two Eastern Conferences rivals, the Knighthawks ultimately survived a late game push by the Swarm and held on for a narrow 19-18 victory in what was the highest scoring game in the NLL this season.
“That one was not fun to watch for me,” joked Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey when asked how the game was from his perspective.
“It was entertaining for the fans who did watch it and were there. It was a high-scoring affair. The last few weeks have been lower in terms of scoring but our offense (as well as theirs) were really on in that game. That alone made it a tough game for all the goalies and the defense.”
We look back at one the most exciting games of the season, plus the return of Dan Coates and more in this week’s edition of Hawk Talk.
Each of Rochester’s last three contests, win or lose, have been decided by one goal. The team’s previous two losses have been by a margin of two or three goals, respectively, meaning that despite the outcome, the Knighthawks have been putting in a full 60-minute effort as they continue their push in securing the first playoff berth in franchise history.
“I think we have our fair share of experience in dealing with those close games both this season and the last few years,” Carey said. “The maturity we have seen in our group helps us know we can get through those difficult times. There have been times where we have let the lead up a little bit, but for us, we have learned through those experiences.”
“It’s a tough league to win in, and we have been fortunate to win those close games.”
COATES’ RETURN FUELS WIN
Alternate captain Dan Coates, a 10-year pro from St. Catharines, returned to the defensive corps this past weekend in Georgia. The 6-0, 195-pound defenseman had missed the previous seven games with an upper-body injury he suffered against the Buffalo Bandits in January.
In addition to returning to the lineup and providing a calming presence at the backend of the floor, Coates contributed offensively, and did so in a big way, by scoring the eventual game-winning goal in the final 90 seconds of regulation.
“I think if you ask anyone on our team, including Dan, who would score, he would not say himself,” said Carey. “He is a clutch player. He always comes up big. In a moment when your teams need it, he is a guy your team can rely on.”
“It was great to see him back as he was out for a number of games,” Carey continued.
PHILADELPHIA, CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE
Of the final six games this season for the Knighthawks, Rochester will face-off against the Philadelphia Wings three times, the first of which comes Sunday at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The Wings boast a 5-6 record and sit in fourth place in the conference standings.
Newcomer Joe Resetarits, a former Knighthawk in the previous organization, paces the Philadelphia offense in goals (27), assists (41) and points (68). Ben McIntosh ranks second with 46 points while Mitch Jones and Rochester native Blaze Biorden sit third with 44 points each.
“They’re a well-rounded team and they have added some players, specifically Mitch Jones,” said Carey. “He has been a guy who has sparked their offense as of late. They will be a tough team to beat. We certainly must be at our best against them. They are in a position with the hopes of making the playoffs and they are going to continue to push to make it.”
“We need to make sure the focus is on us and know how a big game for us is.”
ROCKIN’ IN THE ROC
Beginning this Sunday against Philadelphia, the club will serve as the home team in four of its last six games of the campaign.
Rochester enters this week with a perfect 5-0 mark inside the friendly confines of the Flower City and has outscored its opposition 70-52. The Knighthawks are the only team in the league to remain unbeaten at their home. Second behind the Toronto Rock (+39), Rochester is +22 in goal differential, which is the second largest in the NLL while on at home.
“They will be very important games for us,” Carey said. “We feel Rochester is a great place to play. Every team will say they like to use the home field advantage, but the familiarity and comfort we have in The Blue Cross Arena, it will only help us.”
“We are excited to be at home but the focus on our next game versus Philly.”
The Knighthawks return home on Sunday, Mar. 19 when they host the Philadelphia Wings for the first of three meetings this season. The 3:00 p.m. faceoff at Segar Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.