For the first time in expansion-era history, the Rochester Knighthawks are 3-0 to begin the 2022-23 season.
Between the immense offensive impact that additions like forward Connor Fields have made, the stead and consistent performance of Rylan Hartley between the pipes and contributions from players like transition man Tyler Halls stepping up for the team defensively, there’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to this year’s Knighthawks roster.
Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey covers it all in this week’s Hawk Talk sit-down.
STARTING OFF THE YEAR 3-0
On Saturday against the Albany FireWolves the Knighthawks came away with a 14-13 win, outlasting the FireWolves in the final minutes of play to remain unbeaten.
“I thought it was an overall very good effort,” said Carey when asked how the team came together to pull off a one-goal win. “You know, I think some of the runs that they (Albany) had in the first half, specifically, we were able to battle through and starting the second half I thought we had a lot more energy and our defense made some pretty good stops.”
Fields, the NLL’s leading point-getter with 25 points through his first three games, paced the Knighthawks with an eight-point performance, including his third straight four-goal outing to begin the season. Forward Curtis Knight also had his best game of the season thus far with seven points (2+5) while forward Turner Evans and transition player Matt Gilray each contributed four points on a goal and three assists. Second-year Knighthawk Ryan Smith rounded out the scoring with a hat trick while rookie forward Austin Hasen chipped in three assists as Rochester extended its win streak to a franchise-best three straight games. In addition to scoring twice and adding two assists, veteran forward Holden Cattoni finished with a team-high 16 shots on goal as the Knighthawks outshot Albany 64-41.
In net Hartley, the NLL’s reigning Player of the Week, finished with 28 saves in his third straight start, improving to 3-0 and helping the Knighthawks take sole possession of first place in the NLL’s Eastern Conference.
“It was a game that I felt like overall we had a good team effort, and it wasn’t just one side of the floor that was contributing more than the other. So, that’s the overall team effort that we’re looking for each week,” finished Carey when discussing the Knighthawks win over Albany this past Saturday.
HALLS AND OGILVIE STEPPING THINGS UP
Sometimes we’re all guilty of only paying attention to who’s contributing on the scoresheet every game, however, defense has played a big role in the Knighthawks’ early success this season. Carey feels that two players who have really stepped up are transition player Tyler Halls and defenseman Mitch Ogilvie.
“Tyler Halls comes to mind,” Carey began when asked about the players that have made an impact defensively. “He was great for our face-offs; he gained a lot of possessions for us. He also played very good defensively for the amount of minutes that he had to play and the amount of face-offs he took.”
Halls is currently in his second season in the National Lacrosse league and second with the expansion-era Knighthawks. In His first season with Rochester, Halls posted three points on one goal and two assists while appearing in 10 games. At the end of the 2021-22 campaign, Halls was bestowed the Knighthawks Teammate of the Year award.
“Mitch Ogilvie and Tyler Halls are two guys that started on our practice roster last year. They gained a lot of experience near the end of the year and their maturity, and their experience, is showing this year.”
Ogilvie is also in his second year in the league and with Rochester. After appearing in eight games during the 2021-22 campaign, Ogilvie finished his first year in the pros with two goals.
Tyler Halls was DOMINANT on Saturday, winning 23/30 face offs and leading the team with 13 loose ball recoveries.
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) December 19, 2022
“Those are two guys specifically that bring a lot of energy to us. They put a lot of balls in the ground and are great in transition to get the ball up safely and make smart decisions with the ball,” finished Carey.
RYLAND REES IS BACK IN ACTION
After missing the first two games of the 2022-23 season, transition player Ryland Rees was back in action as the Knighthawks took on the FireWolves this past Saturday.
“With Ryland (Rees) being injured the first two games, other guys were able to step up, but getting him back in the lineup, it gave everybody else confidence around him,” commented Carey when asked about the return of Rees.
Rees is in just his third season in the NLL and third with the expansion-era Knighthawks after leading all Rochester defensive players with a career-high 11 goals and 15 points last season. In 2021-22, Rees was just one of four players to appear in all 18 games last season for Rochester while he also finished eighth among all NLL transition players with a team-best 118 loose ball recoveries.
For the second straight year, Rees earned Defensive Player of the Year honors to cap off the 2021-22 campaign.
And Carey was happy to have Rees, and another leader, back against Albany last weekend.
“He’s (Rees) a leader back there. I know he’s only in his third year now, but he’s a leader. He’s just a talented player, and he covers a lot of floor. I think when he picks up a ball and gets running the other way, he makes a lot of things happen.”
SEE YA IN 2023
It’s hard to believe that the next time the Knighthawks will play in a game, the calendar will be turned to a brand-new year, meaning there’s about a three-week hiatus before Rochester hits the floor for some game action.
We saw this same kind of break last year, mixed with a little COVID in between, and Carey is ready to keep his team on track.
“We will be practicing,” said Carey when asked how to keep the momentum rolling after break. “This is a time where last year where the wheels kind of fell off a little bit. We were 2-1 to start the season and then the Christmas break and COVID, and there were some (other) things that were out of our control, and I feel like it really hurt us.”
Now, this break does give the team a chance to relax and enjoy the holidays with loved ones and let injured players try to return to health, however, it can still be seen as a time to improve.
“It gives us time to get healthy, but also it’s a time to get better and improve and keep our workouts going…all that stuff that can make us better. We aren’t we going to be satisfied with where we’re at. We have to continue to build and know that this is a really tough league to get wins in.”
We are going into January 7th at home UNDEFEATED!
Don’t miss our next game ⬇️
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) December 18, 2022
The Knighthawks return home following their annual Christmas break on Saturday, Jan. 7 as the Panther City Lacrosse Club makes its inaugural visit to Rochester. The 7 p.m. matchup from Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena will be only meeting of the season between the two teams and will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.