TONIGHT’S GAME OVERVIEW
The Rochester Knighthawks (7-2) return from the bye week and officially begin the second half of the 2022-23 season tonight when they host the New York Riptide (2-7) in an intrastate showdown at Segar Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:00 p.m. matchup will be the second and final meeting between the two teams this season and will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.
|TEAM ROSTERS||GAME NOTES|
|2022-23 NLL STATS PACK||2022-23 NLL STANDINGS|
|2022-23 RIPTIDE STATS||2022-23 KNIGHTHAWKS STATS|
|WATCH ON ESPN+||LISTEN LIVE ON BIG 107.3 FM|
SEASON SERIES SNAPSHOT
A victory tonight would complete the season sweep for the Knighthawks, who claimed the previous get-together with an 11-8 win over a month ago on Long Island. The win, which came during the team’s run of six straight to begin the season, was the third in which Rochester held the opposition to fewer than 10 goals in a game. New York, however, has won two of the last three meetings between the intrastate rivals dating back to last season, including the Riptide’s previous visit to Rochester. The Knighthawks and Riptide, who both joined the league as expansion franchises prior to the 2019-20 season, have two of the NLL’s top six point-getters in Jeff Teat and Connor Fields, both of whom lead their respective teams in scoring and are on pace to surpass the 100-point mark. The duo is also first and second in the league in goals, respectively, while Teat is also tied for second in the NLL in power-play scoring with 17 points on the man-advantage. The matchup also features two of the NLL’s top three scoring rookies from last season in Teat and Rochester’s Ryan Smith. Teat, the first overall selection in the 2020 NLL Entry Draft, led all rookies in scoring as part of a remarkable record-setting season while Smith, who was taken third overall that same year, finished second among all first-year players in goals and third in points. New York comes into the matchup with the fifth-best power-play in the league, having gone 21-for-40 through its first nine contests. The Riptide’s 21 power-play goals trail only Panther City and Vancouver for most in the league. Conversely, the Knighthawks boast the top penalty kill in the NLL after allowing only 10 goals-against on 32 shorthanded situations for a .690% success rate.
HASEN CHASING HISTORY
Leading the Knighthawks into their third season of the expansion-era is an all-too-familiar face in head coach Mike Hasen. One of the most decorated coaches in league history, Hasen is certainly no stranger to Rochester, having previously served as head coach of the former Knighthawks franchise from 2011 to 2019. In nine seasons behind the bench with the original Knighthawks, Hasen guided Rochester to an 81-75 regular season record while leading the team to six playoff appearances. The Knighthawks also finished among the top two teams in the East Division six different times under Hasen, including each of the first five seasons (2011-2015). Hasen’s most successful run at the helm of the Knighthawks came from 2012-14 when he made National Lacrosse League history by leading Rochester to an unprecedented three straight Champion’s Cups. He remains the only NLL bench boss to accomplish the feat. With 94 career wins entering the weekend, including four last season, Hasen remains on pace to become just the sixth coach in NLL history to reach 100 career wins. Hasen recently surpassed legendary head coach Les Bartley for sixth all-time with 94 career coaching victories following the win over Halifax on Feb. 11. By season’s end, Hasen will also have coached more than 200 professional games, becoming the second this season behind Georgia’s Ed Comeau, who previously served as head coach of the original Knighthawks franchise, and only the fifth head coach in NLL history to do so. Hasen is 94-101 all-time over his 12 combined seasons in Rochester.
LAST TIME OUT
Connor Fields (4+4) and Holden Cattoni (3+4) combined for 15 points as the Knighthawks survived a late fourth-quarter push by the Halifax Thunderbirds and held on for a 16-14 win back on Feb. 11 at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. By getting back in the win column, the Knighthawks, who remain unbeaten in Rochester this season (4-0), split the two-game series with Halifax. Additionally, the win, which snapped a two-game skid, was the Knighthawks’ first in franchise history over the Thunderbirds dating back to the team’s inaugural campaign. Fields, who has posted a hat trick in seven of his first eight games this season, is now eight goals away of establishing a new franchise record and 13 points shy from matching his previous career-high of 67 he set last season with Buffalo. Rookie forward Thomas Vela (2+0), playing in just his second game of the season, scored the first two goals of his pro career while Curtis Knight (1+3), Turner Evans (0+3), Thomas Hoggarth (1+2) and Paul Dawson (0+2) all produced multi-assist outings. Ryland Rees (1+1), Matt Gilray (1+1), Brad Gillies (1+0) and Austin Hasen (0+1) all found the scoresheet, respectively. Ryan Smith rounded out the scoring with a three-point effort, including the 100th of his pro career with an assist on Rochester’s ninth goal of the game. Goaltender Rylan Hartley (7-2) earned his seventh win of the season in what was his ninth straight start. The netminder finished with 40 saves, which included 17 in the third quarter.
Coming into this weekend, the Knighthawks have outshot the opposition in all but four games this season. The Knighthawks have topped the 50-shot mark in eight of their first nine games, which includes each of the last seven dating back to Dec. 17 against Albany. Additionally, Rochester surpassed the 60-shot mark twice, the most being 64 in the 14-13 triumph over the FireWolves prior to the Christmas break. Averaging more than 70 shots-per-game, Rochester boasts an unblemished 5-0 record this season when outshooting the opponent and are 2-1 when being outshot. They’re also 0-1 when shots are tied. Holden Cattoni, who currently leads the Knighthawks with 98 shots and averaging more than 10 shots per game, tied the single-game franchise record for most shots in a game with 16 against Albany earlier this season.
DYNAMIC DUO TAKING FLIGHT
It should come as no surprise by now that the Knighthawks have one of the elite offensive tandems in the NLL in forwards Connor Fields and Ryan Smith. Rivaling that of Buffalo’s Dhane Smith and Josh Byrne, the duo has combined for 47 goals and 96 points so far this season, even connecting on five of Rochester’s 10 goals in the 13-10 loss to the Bandits back on Jan. 20. Following his eighth straight multi-goal effort to begin the season, Fields enters the weekend third in the NLL in goals (28) and tied for sixth in points (54) despite missing one game. By averaging nearly seven points per game through his first eight games of the season, highlighted by four straight weeks of four-goal efforts, Fields is well on his way of shattering his career-high mark of 67 points he set last season with the Buffalo Bandits. Dating back to his rookie season in 2019-20, Fields, who was originally a first-round pick (10th overall) of the San Diego Seals in 2018, has recorded at least one point in 38 of his 40 career NLL games, including at least two points in all nine games so far this season. After taking his first season in the NLL by storm, Smith has picked up where he left from a year ago. Smith, who last season was one of only four rookies to reach the 50-point mark, ranks third on the team in goals (19) and points (42) in nine games. He’s also tied for sixth in the league with a team-best six power-play tallies. Smith, who successfully reached the 100-point mark in only 27 career games, the fastest in franchise history to do so, led all NLL rookies and set the single-season franchise record with eight power-play goals last season on his way to earning All-Rookie Team honors. Rochester is 4-1 this season when both players score at least twice in the same game.
THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE
Much of Rochester’s first-half success can be attributed to the increase in offensive production from its defensemen and transition players combined with the steady and consistent goaltending of Rylan Hartley. Matt Gilray is sixth in scoring amongst all transition players with 15 points and continues to lead the league with three-game winning goals. Brad Gillies remains at a close second with nine points after recording at least one point in seven of his first nine appearances. Tyler Halls, meanwhile, is assembling what could be a career-year for the second-year defenseman. After securing a full-time roster spot last season, Halls has emerged as one of the Knighthawks’ most reliable and versatile assets among the team’s defensive core. In addition to his offensive contributions, Halls recently cemented his status as the team’s primary face-off specialist having gone 85-for-235 at the center dot this season, good for a .362% success rate. He also established the new single-game franchise record for most face-off wins following his 18-win performance in Rochester’s road win at Albany on Dec. 17, besting the 17 originally set by Jay Thorimbert and later matched by Chris Willman during the team’s inaugural campaign in 2019-20. His 85 face-off wins rank 11th in the NLL while his five assists are tied for 13th-most amongst all defensive players. The young Hartley has been a mainstay between the pipes for the Knighthawks and the catalyst to Rochester’s 7-2 start to the season. Through nine starts, Hartley is tied for third amongst all netminders in wins (7) and ranks fourth in saves (365).
SCOUTING THE RIPTIDE
New York has struggled through the first half of the season, winning just twice in nine games. As was the case last season, all eyes have been on reigning NLL Rookie of the Year Jeff Teat, who currently leads the league with 34 goals and ranks second in overall scoring with 74 points. Teat, who accounted for nine of the Riptide’s 12 goals last Sunday against Halifax with six goals and three assists, took his first season in the NLL by storm, finishing with 108 points on 37 goals and 71 assists in 16 games after being selected first overall in the 2020 NLL Entry Draft. Teat, the son of Dan Teat, a former Knighthawk in the previous organization, finished fourth overall in the NLL in points and third overall in assists, while leading all rookies in goals, assists, points and power-play assists. He also broke single-season NLL rookie records in points and assists and became the first rookie in league history to score 100 points in a season. Additionally, Teat was an All-League Second Team and All-Rookie Team selection in 2021-22.