TONIGHT’S GAME OVERVIEW
The Rochester Knighthawks (4-13) bring the 2021-22 campaign to a close tonight when they host the first-ever visit from the playoff-bound Halifax Thunderbirds (10-7) in the regular-season finale tonight at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The Eastern Conference matchup will be carried live on 107.3 FM The Bull as well as ESPN+.
|TEAM ROSTERS||GAME NOTES|
|2021-22 NLL STATS PACK||KNIGHTHAWKS PLAYER BIOS|
|2021-22 THUNDERBIRDS STATS||2021-22 KNIGHTHAWKS STATS|
|2021-22 NLL STANDINGS||LISTEN LIVE ON 107.3 FM THE BULL|
SEASON SERIES SNAPSHOT
Rochester looks to avoid the season sweep at the hands of the Thunderbirds, who claimed the previous get-together by way of an 11-7 win when the teams last met earlier this month north of the border. Despite a strong defensive effort from the Knighthawks, Halifax would ultimately prevail on the strength of a six-goal second half in a back-and-forth affair between the Eastern Conference rivals at Scotiabank Centre. Knighthawks veteran forwards Turner Evans (2+2) and Holden Cattoni (1+3) each posted four-point efforts to pace the offense while rookie Charlie Bertrand (1+2) turned in a three-point night with a goal and two assists. Ryan Smith (1+0), Thomas Hoggarth (1+0) and Mitch Ogilvie (1+0) all tallied a goal apiece. Goaltender Joel Watson (0-4) made his fourth-straight start in the crease for Rochester, making 33 saves in the losing effort. Despite its heavy offensive firepower, Halifax comes into the weekend with the worst power-play unit in the league, having scored just 21 times on 71 man-advantage opportunities (29.6%) over its first 17 games. As a team, the Thunderbirds have scored the second-most shorthanded goals (9), including an NLL-best six at home, and have also allowed the second-most shorthanded goals-against (11) among any other team, nine of which have come within Scotiabank Centre. Both teams have outscored the opposition in the second quarter this season and each have winning records when leading after the third quarter. Additionally, both teams are winless when trailing after three quarters while the Thunderbirds, who for most of the season were the only team to remain unbeaten when scoring the first goal of the game, recently suffered their first such loss.
WATCH: TONIGHT’S FACE-OFF FIRST LOOK
THE PAST MEETS THE PRESENT
Tonight may be just the third meeting all-time between the Knighthawks and Thunderbirds, but it’s the historical significance that runs much deeper. While Rochester is currently in its second season as an expansion franchise, the Thunderbirds, led by second-year head coach Mike Accursi, relocated to Halifax during the summer of 2019 following 25 seasons in Rochester as the original Knighthawks franchise. The previous Knighthawks joined the NLL in 1998 following three seasons in the MILL, winning 10 division titles and five NLL championships, including three straight from 2012-14 under the ownership of Curt Styres, who also serves as the team’s general manager. The Styres-led Knighthawks also remains the only team in NLL history to win three consecutive championships, a team that was coached by current Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen, who also holds the distinction of being the only head coach in league history to guide his team to three consecutive championships. Of the 21 players on Halifax’s current active roster, at least nine have ties to the previous Knighthawks organization. Thunderbirds forward Shawn Evans, acquired by Halifax in a trade with Rochester back on March 9, also played his first six NLL seasons for the original Knighthawks franchise, with whom he was named the NLL Rookie of the Year in 2006 and won his only NLL championship with. Even Accursi himself is also a former original Knighthawk, whom he led to a Champion’s Cup in 2007 before winning his second straight title the following year during his second stint with Buffalo.
LAST TIME OUT
A second-quarter surge coupled with a season-high 43-save effort by goaltender Joel Watson propelled the Knighthawks to a convincing 15-7 win over the reigning NLL champion Calgary Roughnecks this past Friday at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The matchup was the lone meeting between the clubs this season and the first since Rochester defeated the Roughnecks 13-12 in their inaugural meeting back on Jan. 18, 2020. Rochester’s offensive charge was led by rookie forward Ryan Smith (4+1), who recorded his sixth hat trick over his last 11 games, while veteran forward Curtis Knight (3+1) capped off the night with a four-point effort. Thomas Hoggarth (2+1) and Mike Burke (2+1) had two-goal efforts, while Mitch Ogilvie (1+0) and Holden Cattoni (1+2) tallied a goal apiece. Additionally, defensemen Tyler Biles (1+1) and Matthew Bennett (1+1) had their first goals of the season with Biles scoring his first pro goal. Chris Willman and Charlie Bertand both registered a three-assist performance while Dan Coates (0+2) also turned in a multi-point night in the win, which snapped a franchise-long eight-game skid for Rochester and ended Calgary’s five-game win streak, which was the longest in the NLL. Watson (1-6) made his seventh straight start in the crease for Rochester, earning his first professional win in the process. For his efforts, he was named the NLL’s Rookie of the Week for Week 21, joining forward Ryan Smith as the only two Knighthawks to earn the weekly honors this season.
KNIGHTHAWKS ROOKIES CONTINUE TO SOAR
As has been the case all season, the Knighthawks come into the final weekend of the season owning two of the NLL’s top scoring rookies in forwards Ryan Smith and Charlie Bertrand, who have combined for 93 points (45+48) in what has proven to be a rather seamless transition to the indoor game for both first-year players. Smith, Rochester’s third overall pick in the 2020 NLL Entry Draft, has taken his first NLL season by storm and has evolved into one of the league’s elite point-getters. Coming off a four-goal outing in last week’s win over Calgary, Smith comes into the matchup second among all first-year players with 33 goals while his 57 points are also third-most behind only Jeff Teat of the New York Riptide and Patrick Dodds of Panther City. Smith, who became just the third rookie this season to reach the 50-point mark, is also sixth with 24 assists. Additionally, Smith, the most decorated player to come out of Robert Morris University, has the third-most power-play points among all league rookies with 15, which includes a team-high and franchise record eight power-play goals. Smith, who was named the NLL’s Rookie of the Week for the second time this season following his season-high nine-point performance in Week 14, has recorded multi-goal efforts in nine of his last 11 games and has six hat tricks over that span. His 137 shots are also second among all NLL rookies behind only Teat. Bertrand, meanwhile, has produced 36 points on 12 goals and 24 assists, good enough for ninth among all first-year players coming into the weekend. A three-time NCAA National Champion, which includes back-to-back titles at the University of Virginia, Bertrand has goals in five of his last eight appearances and has recorded at least one point in 16 games this season. He remains tied for the league lead among all rookies with two shorthanded goals while his 24 assists are tied with Smith for ninth-most in that category. The Baldwinsville native is tied for 10th among all rookies with 12 goals.
REES HAVING A CAREER YEAR
The 2021-22 season has been a breakout year for second-year transition man Ryland Rees. The second overall pick in the 2019 NLL Entry Draft, Rees has established career-highs in both goals (10) and points (14) while being one of just five Knighthawks to appear in all 17 games so far this season. Rees, who was named to the NLL’s All-Rookie Team in 2019, currently ranks 14th in scoring among all NLL transition players while his 10 goals are tied for seventh-most at his position. He’s also eighth with a team-high 114 loose ball recoveries.
SCOUTING THE THUNDERBIRDS
After beginning the season 8-1 and rivaling the Buffalo Bandits for NLL supremacy, the Thunderbirds have endured an up-and-down second half to the season despite clinching a playoff spot, their first since relocating to Halifax prior to the 2019-20 season. Coming into tonight, the Thunderbirds have dropped six of their last eight matchups and have gone 2-2 since defeating Rochester back on April 1. Despite the team’s struggles as of late, however, Halifax remains in third place in the NLL’s Eastern Conference standings entering the final week of the regular season. Tonight will also see the return of forward Shawn Evans to Rochester since the organization dealt him to Halifax last month. Since his arrival, the four-time NLL All-Pro selection has recorded 18 points (4+14) in his first six games with the Thunderbirds and currently ranks second on the team in scoring with 65 points (13+52) in 16 combined games overall. The two-time NLL MVP is also tied for 11th in the league with 52 assists. Coming into the weekend, Evans needs three more goals to surpass Mark Steenhuis for eighth on the all-time list with 460 and needs just five more points to become just the sixth player in league history to reach 1,300 career points. Austin Shanks leads all Thunderbirds players with 30 goals and is third on the team in scoring with 60 points. He was named the NLL’s Player of the Week for Week 21 following an eight-point effort (5+3) in Halifax’s 16-13 win over the New York Riptide last Saturday.
- Dan Coates needs four loose ball recoveries to reach 600 in his pro career.
- Tyler Biles scored his first professional goal against Calgary on April 22.
- Joel Watson earned his first professional win following a 43-save effort against Calgary on April 22.
- Holden Cattoni recorded his 300th point as part of a two-point effort at New York on April 16.
- Jared Conners recorded his first point with an assist in his pro debut against Toronto on April 9.
- Mitch Ogilvie scored his first pro goal at Halifax on April 1.
- Curtis Knight recorded his 400th pro point with an assist at Halifax on April 1.
- Tyler Halls scored his first pro goal against New York on March 12.
- Thomas Hoggarth recorded his 100th pro point on his third goal of the night in the 15-12 loss against New York on March 12.
- Paul Dawson became the eighth player in NLL history to reach 500 penalty minutes on Feb. 5.