TONIGHT’S GAME OVERVIEW
The Rochester Knighthawks (1-0) look for their second straight win of the young season tonight as they venture north of the border to take on the new-look Saskatchewan Rush (0-1) for the only time this season at SaskTel Centre. Game time is slated for an 8:00 ET start and will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.
SEASON SERIES SNAPSHOT
Tonight’s contest is the only meeting of the season between the two teams and the first since Rochester made its inaugural visit to Western Canada back on March 19, 2022, a 9-6 Knighthawks loss. Despite only being the second game of the season for both teams, the matchup features two of the league’s leading point-getters in Connor Fields and Zach Manns, who each recorded six points during opening weekend, as well as three of the top scoring defensemen in Dan Coates and Ryan Barnable and Isaac Ngyou. Coates currently leads all NLL defensemen with two assists while Ngyou’s two goals are second-most behind only Halifax’s Jake Withers.
LAST TIME OUT
An eight-goal run to start the second half backstopped by stellar goaltending guided the Knighthawks to a 14-13 season-opening win over the Calgary Roughnecks last Saturday at Segar and Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. Trailing 10-5 at halftime, Rochester exploded for eight straight unanswered goals, including a dominant third-quarter performance during which they outscored the Roughnecks 5-0 before holding off a late game push from Calgary to complete the comeback win. Connor Fields (4+2) picked up right where he left off a season ago, leading the team with four goals, including the eventual game-winner, as part of a six-point effort. Ryan Smith (3+3), now in his third season with Rochester, also sparked the charge for the Knighthawks with a six-point performance of his own to open the season. Austin Hasen (1+4), newcomer Kyle Waters (1+3), Turner Evans (1+2) and Dan Coates (0+2) all produced a multi-points effort with Hasen’s fiver points setting a new career-high for the second-year forward. Goaltenders Riley Hutchcraft and Rylan Hartley split the duties in the crease, with Hartley drawing the starting nod. Hutchcraft played the final 44 minutes in relief, making 28 saves and earning his first career win in the NLL. The sixth-year netminder stopped 21 of his first 23 shots, keeping Calgary off the board completely in the third quarter to fuel Rochester’s second-half surge. Canandaigua native Joe Post was a force at the face-off dot, winning 19 of 30 face-offs to match a single-game franchise record which he also tied last season. Thomas McConvey, the team’s first overall pick in 2022, also made his highly anticipated professional debut, finishing with six shots and five loose ball recoveries.
OPENING THE SEASON
Coming off last Saturday’s win over Calgary, the Knighthawks, who opened the season on home turf for the first time since their inaugural campaign, have now won each of their last three season-opening games dating back to their 13-12 overtime win over the New York Riptide to kick-off the 2021-22 season. The win improved Rochester to 3-1 all-time in season-opening games and 2-2 in home openers.
HASEN BACK AT THE HELM AND CLOSING IN ON HISTORY
Leading the Knighthawks into their fourth season of the expansion-era is an all-too-familiar face in head coach Mike Hasen, who following last week’s win over Calgary is now on the brink of history. With 98 career wins entering this weekend, including 10 last season, Hasen is set to become just the sixth coach in NLL history to reach 100 career wins. He surpassed legendary head coach Les Bartley for sixth all-time following the win over Halifax on Feb. 11 of last season, making him one of three finalists for the 2023 NLL Coach of the Year. Last season, Hasen joined elite company on March 25 in Las Vegas, where he was behind the bench for his 200th regular-season game, a feat only five others in league history have accomplished before him. He became just the sixth head coach – and third last season behind Georgia’s Ed Comeau and Calgary’s Troy Cordingley – to have coached 200 National Lacrosse League games. Hasen also owns the distinction of being the only member of the prestigious group, which also includes Paul Day, Darris Kilgour and Saskatchewan general manager Derek Keenan, to reach the mark having spent his entire career in the same city. 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, who would be named NLL Coach of the Year in 2011, 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.
NEWCOMERS WITH A WINNING PEDIGREE
For the third year in a row, Rochester made a significant splash during the offseason with the acquisition of veteran forwards Stephen Keogh and Dan Lomas and defensemen Ethan O’Connor and Greg Harnett, whose additions will undoubtedly provide a significant boost on both sides of the floor. More importantly, the newcomers bring a winning pedigree to a Knighthawks team that last season took massive strides as an organization, both on the floor and off. Keogh and Lomas both have ties to the original Knighthawks franchise, including two seasons as teammates in Rochester. Keogh, 36, returns to Rochester for his eighth season having totaled 121 goals and 123 assists for 244 points in 80 games with the previous Knighthawks organization from 2012-2019. Keogh, who will begin this season on the PUP list, helped the franchise win three straight NLL championships between 2012 and 2014. Lomas, who’s entering his sixth pro season, has amassed 118 points (61+57) and 146 loose ball recoveries in 50 career NLL regular-season games, including 15 appearances with the previous Knighthawks franchise after being drafted by Rochester in the second round (16th overall) of the 2016 NLL Entry Draft. On the back end, O’Connor is a two-time NLL champion with the Buffalo Bandits while Hartnett helped Calgary capture an NLL title in 2019 during a nine-year stint with the Roughnecks from 2012 to 2020.
McCONVEY READY TO MAKE HIS MARK
Among the rookies looking to make their mark in the National Lacrosse League this season is Knighthawks 2022 first overall pick Thomas McConvey. The highly touted forward, one of eight to make Rochester’s season-opening roster, signed a multi-year deal with the Knighthawks after being named the nation’s top midfielder this past season as a fifth-year graduate student at the University of Virginia. He was also one of three Cavaliers players to be named a USILA First Team All-American in 2023. McConvey, who carried a 52-game point streak into his graduate season at Virginia, the longest in the nation, started all 17 games for the Cavaliers, scoring 28 goals and adding 24 assists for 52 points. Prior to joining Virginia, McConvey played four years at the University of Vermont, where he was a three-time USILA and Inside Lacrosse All-American. One of the most decorated players in program history, the Toronto, Ontario, native assembled one of the most dominant offensive performances as a senior in 2022, setting a program-record with 60 goals, becoming the first player in school history to score more than 50 in a season. He also added 14 assists for a career-high 74 points while starting in all 19 games for the Catamounts, earning him America East Offensive Player of the Year and ECAC Offensive Player of the Year honors. McConvey is just the second player in Vermont history to be tabbed the top player by America East. He also scored 12 goals in the America East championship on his way to being named the Most Outstanding Player during Vermont’s run to its second straight conference championship. In 52 career games with Vermont, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound midfielder totaled 174 points (127+47), finishing seventh all-time in scoring in program history. He recorded at least one point in every game over his four-year career, including a hat trick in eight straight games during his final season. A two-time America East All-Conference First Team selection (2021-22) and a two-time All-New England First Team selection (2021-22), McConvey was also named to the America East All-Rookie Team following a productive 32-point campaign as a freshman.
HAVE A FIELD DAY
Knighthawks forward Connor Fields wasted little time in picking up right where he left off last season, opening the scoring early in the first quarter before netting the game-winner in the final minutes in last week’s win over Calgary. With two goals in the opening quarter, Fields, who also set a new single-game franchise record with 18 shots on goal, has scored two or more goals in 18 straight games dating back to last season. Fields, who last season became just the third American-born player to record 100 points in a season, has also led the team in scoring in 15 of his last 18 outings. Named a Second Team All-League selection, Fields enters the weekend tied for third in the league in goals and fifth in points.
SCOUTING THE RUSH
The Rush return on the heels of a season-opening 17-12 loss to the Halifax Thunderbirds last Saturday at Scotiabank Centre. Halifax erupted for nine first-quarter goals while limiting Saskatchewan to single tallies in back-to-back frames. Zach Manns (3+3) and Robert Church (3+2) combined for 11 points on the night, with both players finishing with hat tricks. Church, who’s played his entire NLL career with the Rush since being drafted by the team fifth overall in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft, is coming off his second 100-point campaign in five years in 2022-23. A three-time NLL champion, Church finished last season third in the NLL in goals behind only Fields and New York’s Jeff Teat. More impressively, he, Fields and Teat became the first NLL trio to finish with more than 50 goals and 50 assists in the same season since 2002. Church previously led the NLL in power-play goals for three straight seasons during a run in which he led Saskatchewan to three NLL titles in a four-year span.