TONIGHT’S GAME OVERVIEW
The Rochester Knighthawks return to the floor tonight following a 21-month layoff as they open the 2021-22 National Lacrosse League season against the New York Riptide at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The 7:30 p.m. matchup is just the second all-time meeting between the former expansion franchises and will be carried live on 107.3 FM The Bull as well as ESPN+.PLAYER BIOS
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.
KNIGHTHAWKS CORE RETURNS
Of the 21 active players listed on Rochester’s opening-night roster, 13 appeared in at least one game with the Knighthawks during the 2019-20 season. Leading point-getter Holden Cattoni returns his second season in Rochester after being acquired by the team in the second round of the 2019 NLL Expansion from the Georgia Swarm. Cattoni established himself as one of the NLL’s elite point-getters, finishing sixth in the league in scoring while pacing the Knighthawks in goals (24), assists (38) and points (62). The fifth-year pro also ranked ninth among NLL leaders in goals and assists and tied for fifth with a team-high 12 power-play assists, eight of which came over his last seven games of the season. Cattoni averaged nearly five points per game through the truncated 12-game season, and was one of only two Knighthawks to record at least one point in every contest he appeared in. He reached the 50-point mark for the third straight year, and up until the NLL’s stoppage of play on March 12, 2020, was on pace to shatter his career-high 80-point campaign which he set during the 2018-19 season.
Rochester’s leadership group consisting of team captain Paul Dawson and alternates Shawn Evans and Curtis Knight remain intact for this coming season, with Dawson and Evans both having ties to the previous Knighthawks franchise. A two-time NLL MVP with the Calgary Roughnecks in 2013 and 2015, Evans played the first six years of his pro career with the former Knighthawks franchise, during which he totaled 363 points (143+220) in 93 games while leading Rochester to an NLL championship in 2007. Over his NLL career, Evans has earned four straight All-Pro First Team selections and was named to the NLL All-Rookie Team in 2006. Much like Evans, Dawson’s history in Rochester spans nearly the past decade. The 14-year NLL veteran spent parts of seven seasons with the previous Knighthawks franchise, recording 36 points (13+23) in 110 career games while winning back-to-back championships (2013-14) along the way. Dawson also piled up 231 penalty minutes during his tenure in Rochester, ranking sixth all-time in team history. He served as an alternate captain during the 2018-19 campaign and was named to the Knighthawks’ All-Time Team.
Rounding out the returnees is second-year transition man Ryland Rees. Taken with the second overall pick in the 2019 NLL Entry Draft, Rees took his first season in the National Lacrosse League by storm, recording 11 points on four goals and seven assists while being one of just four Knighthawks rookies to appear in all 12 games during Rochester’s inaugural campaign. The Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, native finished the year tied for 10th in scoring among all NLL rookies and second behind only teammate Cory Highfield for the most points among all first-year transition players. Rees also added a team-high 75 loose ball recoveries, trailing only New England’s Joe Nardella (86) and New York’s Alex Woodall (84) for the most among NLL rookies in that category.
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 fourth assist of the game in the 16-15 overtime loss at Buffalo back on Jan. 31, 2020, Evans surpassed John Grant, Jr. for fifth all-time in league history. Evans will pass Shawn Williams for ninth all-time in goals (445) on his next goal and by season’s end could also potentially surpass Williams for ninth all-time in career games played.
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.
ROOKIES READY TO TAKE FLIGHT IN ROCHESTER
Highlighting this year’s incoming players include rookie forward Ryan Smith, who is fresh off winning a PLL championship with the Chaos Lacrosse Club in 2021. Selected by Rochester third overall in the 2020 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft, Smith is the most decorated player in history to come out of Robert Morris University. As a fifth-year graduate student in 2021, Smith set career-highs with 48 goals and 71 points, while also establishing single-season records for points (71), points-per-game (5.46) and goals-per-game (3.69). Over his illustrious five seasons with the Colonials, Smith, who was on the Tewaaraton Award Watch List for much of the season, scored 142 goals and totaled 217 points in 69 career games, all of which are most in program history. He ranks second all-time in career points-per-game (3.14) and games started (59) and third in goals-per-game (2.06) and assists (75). A native of Burlington, Ontario, the 23-year-old Smith is also a three-time All-Northeast Conference selection and remains the only player in RMU history to win NEC Rookie of the Year honors.
SCOUTING THE RIPTIDE
Much like the Knighthawks, the Riptide embark on their second NLL season in 2021-22 after seeing their inaugural campaign cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After going just 1-12, New York bolstered its offense with the addition of reigning NLL MVP and leading point-getter in 2019-20 in forward Callum Crawford. The 16-year pro led the league in goals (33) and points (76) while finishing third in assists (43) over 11 games with the New England Black Wolves. He’s reached the 30-goal mark in each of his last five seasons and has surpassed the 100-point mark twice over the last five years dating back to the 2015-16 campaign. New York’s biggest acquisition, however, came by way of the 2020 NLL Entry Draft with the Riptide selecting highly touted forward Jeff Teat first overall. Teat, who’s arguably the top prospect in the game of lacrosse today, is the most decorated player to come out of Cornell University. A three-time USILA All-American and a four-time Inside Lacrosse Media All-American, Teat became the first player in Big Red history to be selected No. 1 overall in an NLL Draft, and the third lacrosse player ever to be selected first overall in both indoor and outdoor professional lacrosse leagues. Teat, the son of former Knighthawk Dan Teat, received All-Ivy accolades on three occasions, including unanimous All-Ivy selections in 2018 and 2019. Teat finished his college career third in the Cornell record books with 268 points and 152 assists while also cracking the top-10 in ninth place with 116 career goals. He is one of just two players in Big Red history to post three consecutive 30-goal, 30-assist seasons and is one of just four to record 70 points in three straight campaigns.
NEW YORK CONNECTIONS
- Knighthawks transition man John Wagner was acquired by Rochester during the 2020 NLL Entry Draft from the Riptide in exchange for defensemen Jay Thorimbert and Darryl Robertson.
- Knighthawks defenseman Mike Manley, currently on the PUP list, appeared in six games for New York during its inaugural season. He was later acquired by Rochester on July 14, 2020 in exchange for three draft picks.
- Thorimbert became the NLL’s all-time leader in face-off wins in 2019-20 with Rochester.
- Holden Cattoni is six goals away from reaching the century mark in his career.
- Shawn Evans needs six more goals for 450 in his career and just one more to move into ninth all-time in NLL history. He’s also 14 assists away from 800 in his pro career and needs just 20 more points to reach 1,250 career points.
- Turner Evans needs six more assists for 100 in his pro career.