Coming into the Rochester Knighthawks 2021-22 campaign, everyone was excited about the signing of free agent veteran defenseman Dan Coates. From starring in every game for Rochester, to helping lead a confident and smart defensive core down the stretch, Coates was the leader that Rochester needed in a year where they were still trying to figure things out for the future.
Let’s take a look back at Coates’ top moments with the Knighthawks this past season.
SIGNING WITH THE KNIGHTHAWKS
Change never comes easy, just ask Coates after his prolific nine-year career with the Colorado Mammoth. The decision to come to Rochester put him between a rock and a hard place, however, coming to the Flower City meant that Coates could be a little closer to home and that played a big factor when it came down to crunch time.
“It certainly wasn’t an easy one,” stated Coates when asked how he made the final decision to come to Rochester during the NLL free agency period last summer. “I think at the end of the day, it was playing close to home and certainly being from St. Catharines and the commute being a little more than an hour, hour and a half. I also think it was just the people that I knew here. Being in Rochester, I got to be familiar with Dan Carey and worked with him in Colorado and Mike Hasen for Team Canada.”
On Aug. 6, 2021, the deal became official. Coates was signed to a two-year contract with Rochester, becoming, arguably, the biggest free agency pick-up of the offseason for the Knighthawks.
HELPING LEAD THE WAY
Midway through the season, there were some moves made on the Knighthawks roster which left an open alternate captain spot up for grabs. To no surprise, Coates was one of two newly dubbed alternate captains for Rochester when the opportunity became available.
“I think it’s just leading by example,” stated the veteran defenseman when asked about his style when it comes to helping captain a team. “I’ve been around enough in this league, and played with some great players and leaders, and I think I’ve just tried to take a little bit of something that I’ve learned from them and try to pass it along.”
Although a veteran, Coates continues to be a student of the game and only hopes younger players will follow his lead while he takes away tidbits from their style of play.
“I’m still a student of the game and I’m constantly trying to learn. Whether that’s on the floor or off the floor, if I can pass anything along to our guys, I will. You know, I’m learning just as much from playing with them as I’m trying to teach them,” explained Coates when talking about helping lead the Knighthawks during the 2021-22 campaign.
DEFENSE ON POINT
Coates went on to appear in every game for Rochester in the 2021-22 campaign, being just one of six players on the active roster to do so. In his 18 games, Coates racked up 14 points with 13 assists and 109 loose ball recoveries, which was good for second on the team behind only Ryland Rees. While we all know defenseman aren’t usually the players we look at to put up high offensive totals, Coates’ presence was extremely noticeable on the floor through the season.
Especially when the defensive core was literally keeping the Knighthawks in games towards the end of the 2021-22 campaign.
“I think it was trying to find the right balance of who was kind of consistently in the lineup,” discussed Coates when asked about when he noticed the defense really beginning to come together. “Every team kind of battled through COVID and injuries and we kind of seemed to be one of those teams that had to go through it, but I think it was injecting some youth in our lineup.”
Dan Coates first goal this season was a pretty sweet one. pic.twitter.com/qMerGCwIUV
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) June 27, 2022
Coates commented that younger players like defensemen Mitch Ogilvie and Tyler Halls made a massive impact for the squad towards the tail-end of the year. However, the Knighthawks knew their strengths and weaknesses and the identity really began to come together towards the end of the year because of that mutual understanding between the team.
“We knew our strengths; we knew our weaknesses. I think we knew our identity on defense and how could we put that all together, and I think we made some good adjustments from our coaching staff and Joel Watson played some big lacrosse for us down the stretch,” finished Coates when explaining why we saw such a difference in the defensive core from the start of the year to the finish.