In Week 14 of National Lacrosse League action, the Rochester Knighthawks may have had their best game yet. The Knighthawks defense was on point, goaltender Rylan Hartley was establishing career-highs in the crease, forward Connor Fields was producing no matter the odds and Rochester will look to come out on top this week against a Georgia Swarm team who’s on the rise and fighting for a 2023 playoff spot.
We take a look it all with Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey in this week’s edition of Hawk Talk.
DEFENSE ON POINT…FOR EVERYBODY
This past weekend was the second-lowest scoring affair the Knighthawks have seen all season, and with 17 combined goals, it was the lowest output between two teams. Not surprising coming from two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference in Rochester and Toronto, making for an incredible defensive battle on the floor.
“I think it was just two teams that were ready to compete,” said Carey when asked about the strong defensive battle. “We did a phenomenal job, I thought, on their offense and our defense was dialed in. Rylan Hartley was unbelievable. That might have been the best game I’ve seen him play.”
On top of the defense that guys like Knighthawks transition player Ryland Rees displayed, Hartley went on to have his best performance of the season. While making his 11th consecutive start between the pipes, Hartley stopped a season and career-high 56 shots in just his third loss of the year.
“That’s a team (Toronto) that’s scored a lot of goals recently and to hold them to nine, we did a great job.”
Last night, Rylan Hartley set a franchise record for most saves in a single game with 56.
Hartz is simply unreal 🤯 pic.twitter.com/0PVCmqtwDW
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) March 5, 2023
FIELDS FINDING OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION NO MATTER THE TASK AT HAND
Fields just does it again week after week. The first-year Hawk’s offensive production shouldn’t be a surprise at this point, however, in arguably the toughest defensive battle of the season this past Saturday he put together another seven-point performance with two goals and five assists.
“He’s trusted with the ball in the stick and, I think, he maximizes on his opportunities,” explained Carey when asked how Fields continually finds offense no matter the defensive matchup. “He’s a guy that isn’t just a shooter or isn’t just a feeder, he’s well-rounded and I think it’s a testament to his athleticism and also his IQ.”
With 2 goals and 7 points on Saturday, Connor Fields broke the single-season franchise record for points.
Fields now has 66 points on the season with seven games remaining in the season! pic.twitter.com/uZBZDdnRdQ
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) March 6, 2023
En route to his seven-point effort on Saturday against the Rock, Fields set the franchise’s single season scoring record, surpassing forward Holden Cattoni’s 63 mark from last season. Additionally, Fields factored in on seven of Rochester’s eight goals against Toronto, while also finishing the night with a team-high 15 shots on goal.
TAKING ON THE SWARM…TAKE TWO
This weekend, the Knighthawks are taking on the Swarm for the second time this season, a team that’s expected to come in with a purpose after winning each of their last two games.
“They’ve won two games in a row,” began Carey when asked about the Knighthawks’ next game on their schedule. “They’re a team that is very skilled and they work very hard and, I think, things have haven’t gone their way throughout the year, but they’ve shown recently that they’re a team that’s going to be scary to compete against.”
Carey isn’t wrong. Despite Georgia’s 2-7 overall record, the team still has a lot of offensive firepower and that offense is powered by none other than forwards Lyle Thompson and Andrew Kew, who have combined for 105 points on the season. Defensively, TJ Comizio leads the Swarm with 70 loose ball recoveries in the team’s first nine games of the season, while Georgia has used two different goaltenders in tandem this season pretty consistently in Brett Dobson and former Knighthawk Craig Wende.
However, this weekend seems to be just like every other as the Knighthawks look ahead to their game against the Swarm – a team that’s going to come in full throttle trying to keep their playoff dreams alive.
“We have to be at our best just like we have to be every weekend. They’re (Georgia) a team that’s going to be fighting for their playoff lives and we have to be ready to show up on Sunday.”
The Knighthawks remain on the road this Sunday, Mar. 12 when they head south to meet the Swarm for the second of three meetings this season. The 4 p.m. face-off at Gas South Arena will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.