TONIGHT’S GAME OVERVIEW
The fiercest rivalry in the National Lacrosse League will officially be renewed tonight as the Rochester Knighthawks (1-0) host the intrastate rival Buffalo Bandits (1-0) in their 2021-22 Home Opener at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:00 p.m. start and will be carried live on 107.3 FM The Bull as well as ESPN+.BUY TICKETS
|TEAM ROSTERS||GAME NOTES|
|202-122 NLL STATS PACK||KNIGHTHAWKS PLAYER BIOS|
|2021-22 BANDITS STATS||2021-22 KNIGHTHAWKS STATS|
|2021-22 NLL STANDINGS||LISTEN LIVE ON 107.3 FM THE BULL|
SEASON SERIES SNAPSHOT
Tonight’s contest is the first of three scheduled meetings between the two teams and the first of two in Rochester this season. Both teams come into the matchup having won their respective season-opening matchups with the Knighthawks defeating the New York Riptide by a 13-12 score in overtime and the Bandits opening their 30th NLL campaign with a dominating 16-9 victory over the reigning NLL champion Calgary Roughnecks this past weekend. The Bandits and Knighthawks rank first and second in the Eastern Conference with 16 and 13 goals scored, respectively. Following tonight’s matchup, the teams are idle until Rochester makes its lone trip down the thruway after the New Year on Feb. 5, 2022 to close out a season-long three-game road swing before the Bandits return for their final visit of the season on Feb. 26, 2022.
WATCH: TONIGHT’S FACE-OFF FIRST LOOK
LAST TIME OUT
Newcomer Thomas Hoggarth completed the hat trick 1:30 into overtime to lift the Knighthawks to a 13-12 season-opening win over the New York Riptide this past Saturday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Reigning Offensive Player of the Year Holden Cattoni picked up right where he left off from the 2019-20 season, leading the Knighthawks with three goals and four assists while forward Shawn Evans also recorded a seven-point night on two goals and five assists. Evans’ first goal of the night was the 445th of his pro career, surpassing former teammate Shawn Williams for ninth all-time in NLL history. Rookie forward Charlie Bertrand made his National Lacrosse League debut, netting a pair of goals, while Turner Evans, Ryland Rees and Cory Highfield completed the scoring for Rochester. Former NLL Goaltender of the Year Evan Kirk finished with 43 saves on 55 shots against in his Knighthawks debut. Chris Willman went 13-for-28 on face-offs.
KNIGHTHAWKS ALREADY TAKING FLIGHT
Just one game into the 2021-22 season and several Knighthawks are already among the NLL scoring leaders heading into Week 2. Cattoni’s explosive start to the season has him tied for fourth in scoring while Shawn Evans’ five assists are also tied for fourth in the NLL. Dating back to the team’s inaugural campaign, Cattoni and Evans remain the only two Knighthawks to have recorded at least one point in every game since the team’s inception in 2019-20. Kirk’s 43-save effort was the fourth-most by any goaltender during opening weekend. Rees, who led the team with 75 loose ball recoveries last season, is tied for seventh in the league in that category with 10 on the season and Willman’s 48.1 percent success rate from the face-off X is the 12th-best in the league coming into tonight.
WATCH: HOLDEN CATTONI FOLLOWING MORNING SHOOTAROUND
EVANS CONTINUES TO CLIMB
After becoming just the sixth player in NLL history to record 1,200 career points during the 2019-20 season, Shawn Evans continues to climb up the league’s all-time scoring lists. With his first goal of the game in Rochester’s 13-12 win over the Riptide on Saturday, Evans officially surpassed Shawn Williams for ninth all-time in goals (445) and by season’s end could also potentially finish one game shy of Williams for ninth on the all-time games played list. The 16-year pro and two-time NLL MVP also trails Colin Doyle by 66 assists for fourth all-time and is on pace to become just the fifth player in league history to reach 800 career assists. He’s also 13th on the league’s all-time loose balls list with 1,350 total loose ball recoveries over his NLL career.
HASEN BACK AT THE HELM
Leading the Knighthawks into their second 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 served as head coach of the former Knighthawks franchise since the 2011 season. In nine seasons behind the bench, 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. Hasen will again be joined alongside assistant coaches Pat O’Toole and Mat Giles for the 2021-22 season. Hasen comes into the matchup with an 84-85 career record as an NLL bench boss.
WATCH: MIKE HASEN FOLLOWING MORNING SHOOTAROUND
KNIGHTHAWKS KEY ACQUISITIONS
Rochester made the biggest splash during the offseason free agency period with the acquisition of two established NLL veterans in defenseman Dan Coates and goaltender Evan Kirk, whose additions will undoubtedly provide balance and stability for Rochester’s young defensive corps. Coates, 34, previously spent nine seasons with the Colorado Mammoth, during which he compiled 75 points (15+60), 492 loose ball recoveries and 139 caused turnovers in 128 career games. A former first-round selection (8th overall) by Colorado in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft, he departed the Mammoth ranked second in franchise history in caused turnovers (139), fourth in face-off wins (477) and games played (128) and seventh in loose balls (492). A four-year captain, the St. Catharines, Ontario, native also added six points (1+5) and 28 loose balls in 10 postseason contests while leading the team to an unprecedented eight straight playoff appearances from 2012-2019, including a pair of trips to the Western Division Final. Kirk, meanwhile, joins the Knighthawks having compiled a 58-48 career record with an 11.83 goals-against average and a .770 save percentage in 141 games over nine seasons with the Saskatchewan Rush, New England Black Wolves, Philadelphia Wings and Minnesota Swarm from 2011-2020. A native of Orangeville, ON, the nine-year veteran recorded an impressive 25-9 record in 41 appearances with the Rush over the last three seasons, winning an NLL championship along the way. He was also enjoying a banner year with a 9.26 goals-against average and a .813 save percentage during the 2019-20 campaign prior to the cancellation of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally a first-round pick (sixth overall) of the Swarm in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft, Kirk was honored as the 2016 NLL Goaltender of the Year and was a 2016 All-Pro First Team selection after posting a 9-4 mark with New England. He also was named to the 2012 NLL All-Rookie team after his first year with Minnesota.
SCOUTING THE BANDITS
Much like the Knighthawks, the Bandits, who advanced to the NLL Final in 2019, are in search of their second straight win to open the season following their 16-9 rout of the defending NLL champion Calgary Roughnecks this past Saturday at KeyBank Center. The teams were tied 7-7 coming out of halftime but Buffalo took control in the third, scoring seven straight unanswered goals and outscoring the Roughnecks 9-2 over the final two quarters to come away with the victory. Dhane Smith scored three times as part of a team-high nine-point night while Josh Byrne had four goals and added three assists for the Bandits. Veteran goaltender Matt Vinc made 49 saves for his 120th career win, the most in NLL history. After combining for 16 points in the win over Calgary, Buffalo has two of the league’s top four point-getters in Smith and Byrne. Smith currently leads the NLL in scoring with nine points is also tied for the league lead with six assists. Byrne, meanwhile, is tied for third in the league with four goals entering play tonight. Coming of his opening-night hat trick last week, rookie forward Tehoka Nanticoke leads all first-year players with three goals and is tied for third among all rookies with three points. Bandits defenseman Justin Robinson is tied for second in scoring amongst all NLL defensemen with two points. Buffalo’s biggest asset, however, is between the pipes in Vinc, who enters his third season with the Bandits and 16th overall. Arguably one of the best netminders in NLL history, Vinc currently leads the league in saves (49), ranks second in save percentage (.845) and is tied for third in goals-against average. A seven-time NLL Goaltender of the Year, Vinc spent eight seasons with the previous Knighthawks franchise from 2011 to 2018, backstopping the team to three straight NLL championships in 2012, 2013 and again in 2014. Vinc, who’s also an eight-time NLL All-Pro Fist-Team selection, is the all-time leader in minutes played (12,687), saves (8,348) and wins (120). Vinc is the only netminder in league history to earn Goaltender of the Year honors seven times and the only netminder to win an NLL championship in three straight years.
- Holden Cattoni is three goals away from reaching the century mark in his career.
- Shawn Evans needs four more goals for 450 in his career. He’s also nine assists away from 800 in his pro career and needs just 13 more points to reach 1,250 career points.
- Turner Evans needs three more assists for 100 in his pro career.
- Paul Dawson is 15 points away from 100 in his pro career.
- Shawn Evans, Thomas Hoggarth and Matt Gilray were all part of the Bandits team that advanced to the 2019 NLL Championship game. Evans led the Bandits in scoring that year during the regular season with 94 points in 17 games.
- Knighthawks defenseman Matt Bennett played parts of four seasons with the Bandits after being selected by Buffalo in the second round (14th overall) of the 2014 NLL Entry Draft.
- Knighthawks assistant coach Pat O’Toole played three seasons in Buffalo, leading the Bandits to the 1996 MILL Championship. He was named the game’s MVP and later went on to win another NLL title with previous Knighthawks franchise in 2007
UP NEXT FOR THE KNIGHTHAWKS
The Knighthawks make their way to New York State’s capital region on Saturday, Dec. 18 for an intrastate showdown against the Albany FireWolves at the Times Union Center. The 7:00 p.m. matchup will be the first of two meetings between the two teams this season and will be carried live on 107.3 FM The Bull as well as ESPN+. Rochester’s next home game is slated for Saturday, Jan. 8 when they host the Calgary Roughnecks for the only time this season.