The Rochester Knighthawks embark on their final week of training camp this week, which means the start of the 2021-22 National Lacrosse League season is getting closer with Faceoff Weekend scheduled for Dec. 3 and 4.
With last weekend’s preseason matchup ending with a fourth-quarter comeback by the Panther City Lacrosse Club, the Knighthawks fell 11-8 in the loss at Brampton Memorial Arena. Rochester still saw six players notch goals and netminders Rylan Hartley and Joel Watson splitting time in the crease.
Despite the scoresheet not bending in Rochester’s favor, Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey still felt as if there were some bright spots from Saturday’s preseason matchup against Panther City.
“There were definitely some good parts to it. We’re getting to that point where we’re finalizing the last couple of spots for our roster, active and practice, and I think it was a good opportunity for us to see our guys again in a game situation instead of just practice.”
Not only have the past couple of weeks been great to get the team game-ready for when the season hits, it’s been a good test to see how they’ll mesh with one another. Carey likes to think his group is “business-driven” yet still enjoying the ride.
“What I like about the group right now is they’re focused and they’re business-driven. Guys are really wanting to push themselves, push each other and get better.”
Carey then went on to add, “I think they’re coming together well. We just have a great group of guys and they’re enjoying each other, but at the same time it seems to be business, which is what we’re expecting.”
After not seeing his team in action for over a year-and-a-half, it’s somewhat surprising that Carey is not at all shocked by who he’s seeing consistently contribute throughout the preseason.
“I got to say, we haven’t had many surprises to this point, we’re kind of expecting our guys to play well.”
Players that have caught Carey’s eye, however, include defenseman Tyler Biles and goaltender Rylan Hartley, both of whom are entering their second season with the Knighthawks in 2021-22.
“There’s a lot of second-year guys on our list, on our team, and having that first-year experience is definitely beneficial. A guy like Tyler Biles, coming into this year we knew what we were hoping and expecting but he came in, in great shape, his game has matured and physically he seems that much better and more ready to play in the NLL,” said Carey.
Additionally, Carey loves the competitive nature Hartley brings to his game.
“Rylan Hartley is super committed to being the best goalie he can be. His competitiveness is infectious and it’s something that the other guys, I think, they love to see his energy and his compete level. It just trickles down to the rest of the team.”
With the Knighthawks concluding their preseason slate with a showdown against the Albany FireWolves this Saturday, Carey feels there’s a level of excitement heading into the 2021-22 campaign.
“I think there’s a level of excitement and then there’s a level of some decisions that still need to be made. If we had to go into this weekend, I feel we would be fine, but knowing we have another weekend ahead of us is definitely beneficial and I’m confident we’ll be ready to go week one.”
Along with the excitement of the season being right around the corner, Carey and staff will continue to finalize the roster throughout the next week, which is always a hard task. Currently, there are eight new faces that we’ll be seeing hit the floor for the Knighthawks this season, along with the 13 returners from the inaugural 2019-20 campaign.
The Knighthawks have their final preseason matchup against the FireWolves this Saturday, Nov. 27 at Segar and Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena before opening the 2021-22 NLL regular season on Saturday, Dec. 4 against the New York Riptide.