TONIGHT’S GAME OVERVIEW
The Rochester Knighthawks (3-10) usher in the final month of the 2021-22 regular season tonight as they make their way north of the border to battle the Halifax Thunderbirds (8-5) at Scotiabank Centre. The Eastern Conference matchup gets underway at 6:00 p.m. ET and 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
Only five games remain on the schedule for both teams, who last met back on Dec. 28, 2019 in Halifax where Rochester saw its comeback bid fall just short in a 14-12 loss to the Thunderbirds. Rochester held a one-goal advantage after the first 30 minutes of play, but a second-half surge by Halifax was enough to hand the Knighthawks the loss. Facing a 13-9 deficit early in the fourth quarter, Rochester nearly closed the gap by scoring three of the game’s final four goals to cut the deficit in half. Holden Cattoni paced the Knighthawks with a team-high five-point night, scoring twice before adding three assists. Tonight’s matchup begins a stretch in which the two teams will meet twice over the final five weeks of the season. The Knighthawks enter the weekend having dropped each of their last five road contests as well as five straight overall while the Thunderbirds are also in the middle of a four-game slide. Despite its heavy offensive firepower, Halifax comes into the weekend with the worst power-play unit in the league, having scored just 15 times on 60 man-advantage opportunities (25.0%) over its first 13 games. The Knighthawks, meanwhile, have the third-best penalty kill on the road this season with a 62.1% success rate after allowing just 11 power-play goals against through their seven road games. As a team, the Thunderbirds have scored the third-most shorthanded goals (8), including an NLL-leading five at home, and have allowed the second-most shorthanded goals-against (10) among any other team, eight 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 remain the only team this season to remain unbeaten when scoring the first goal of the game. After tonight’s game, the teams are idle until April 30 when Halifax makes its inaugural visit to Rochester for the regular season finale between the two teams at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena.
THE PAST MEETS THE PRESENT
Tonight may be just the second 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 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-half surge wasn’t enough to power the Knighthawks back from a seven-goal deficit against the Philadelphia Wings, who survived the late push and held on for a 12-8 win in the season series finale between the two teams this past Saturday at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. Rochester’s offensive efforts were led by forwards Ryan Smith (2+0) and Thomas Hoggarth (2+0) both contributing two goals, while forward Curtis Knight (1+3) finished with a team-high four points. Turner Evans (1+2) had a three-point night with one goal and two assists, while Charlie Bertrand (1+0) and John Wagner (1+0) both notched a goal apiece. Goaltender Joel Watson (0-3) made his third straight start in the crease for Rochester, making 39 saves while also adding an assist on the night for his first NLL point. Additionally, newcomer Lukas Coote made his Rochester debut at the end of the contest, seeing 1:59 of game action. With Smith’s second goal of the night, he tied the single-season franchise record for power-play goals with his seventh power-play tally of the season, tying the original mark established by Cattoni during the 2019-20 season. It was also the fifth time this season the Knighthawks outshot their opponent.
HEAD OF THE ROOKIE CLASS
The transition to the indoor game has been relatively seamless for Knighthawks rookie forward Ryan Smith, who has taken his first NLL season by storm. Coming off another multi-goal outing last Saturday against Philadelphia, Smith comes into the matchup second among all first-year players with 24 goals while his 45 points are also third-most behind only Jeff Teat of the Riptide and Patrick Dodds of Panther City. Smith, who became just the third rookie this season to reach the 40-point mark, is also sixth with 21 assists. Additionally, Smith has the second-most power-play points among all league rookies with 14, which includes a team-high seven 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 10 games and has five hat tricks over that span, including four of his last six. His 97 shots are also second-most among rookies behind only Teat.
ROCHESTER NATIVE SIGNS WITH KNIGHTHAWKS
Among the flurry of roster moves the Knighthawks made in the recent weeks was the addition of Rochester native and defenseman Jared Conners, who the team selected in the third round (45th overall) of the 2020 NLL Entry Draft. Conners is one of the most decorated players to come out of the University of Virginia. A three-time Inside Lacrosse All-American selection, Conners completed his collegiate career with 35 points (20+15) – the most all-time among Virginia’s long-pole scorers – and 278 ground balls while appearing in all 77 games over his five seasons with the Cavaliers. Conners, who was one of several players to utilize the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, led Virginia to back-to-back NCAA National Championships in 2021 and 2019, the first of which was the program’s second title of the decade and first since 2011. He was named the Lt. Donald MacLaughlin Jr. Outstanding Midfielder of the Year for the 2020-21 season after producing 10 points (4+6) in 18 games while also leading all non-faceoff players in the nation with 77 ground balls. Conners, much like Smith, is new to the indoor game following one season in the Premier Lacrosse League. In eight games with the Archers, Conners recorded 12 ground balls and added three caused turnovers. It was during his time in high school that Conners established himself as one of Rochester’s most dynamic lacrosse players. A four-year letter-winner at Pittsford, Conners was named an Under Armour All-American and was twice named a US Lacrosse All-American. He also earned First-Team All-County and All-Greater Rochester honors in addition to being a two-time Section V Defensive Player of the Year selection.
SCOUTING THE THUNDERBIRDS
After beginning the season 8-1 and rivaling the Buffalo Bandits for NLL supremacy, the Thunderbirds have been a downward spiral over the last month, dropping each of their last four, including both ends of a home-and-home series with the Bandits most recently. Halifax has been outscored 50-38 over its current four-game slide and were held to fewer than 10 goals in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history in losses to Albany and Georgia. Despite the team’s struggles as of late, however, Halifax remains in second place in the NLL’s Eastern Conference standings entering the final month of the regular season. The Thunderbirds carry the NLL’s second-best home record into the matchup having won six of their first eight contests within the friendly confines of Scotiabank Centre, where they have outscored the opposition 93-82. Tonight will also be the first time newly acquired forward Shawn Evans will go up against the Knighthawks since the organization dealt him to Halifax last month. Since his arrival, the four-time NLL All-Pro selection has recorded 14 points (3+11) in his first four games with the Thunderbirds and took over the team’s scoring lead with 61 points (12+49) in 14 combined games overall. The 16-year pro ranks fourth in the NLL with 49 assists and is tied for 16th in the NLL in overall scoring. Coming into the weekend, Evans needs four more goals to surpass Mark Steenhuis for eighth on the all-time list with 460 and needs just nine more points to become just the sixth player in league history to reach 1,300 career points.
- Curtis Knight needs just one more point to reach 400 in his pro career.
- Holden Cattoni needs seven points to reach 300 in his pro career.
- 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.
- Halifax captain Cody Jamieson spent his first nine seasons with the previous Knighthawks franchise. He captained Rochester to three straight NLL championships (2012-2014) and was named the NLL MVP for the 2014 season.
- Thunderbirds defenseman Graeme Hossack was named the NLL’s Defensive Player of the Year as well as a First Team All-Pro selection as a member of the previous Knighthawks during the 2017-18 season.
- Halifax goaltender Aaron Bold played two seasons (2010-2011) in Rochester.
- Knighthawks forward Mike Burke spent the 2019-20 season with Halifax.
UP NEXT FOR THE KNIGHTHAWKS
Rochester returns home on Saturday, April 9 to take on the Toronto Rock for the final time this season at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The Eastern Conference showdown gets underway at 7:00 p.m. and will be carried live on The Bull 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+. Fans can stay up to date all season long with the latest news, stories and notes at www.rochesterknighthawks.com.