TODAY’S GAME OVERVIEW
The Rochester Knighthawks (9-3) return home seeking their 10th win of the season this afternoon when they host the host the Philadelphia Wings (5-7) in the first of three meetings at Segar and Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The Knighthawks will honor local veterans and military members as part of their annual Military Salute in partnership with Veterans Outreach Center and the team still sport special military-themed jerseys as a tribute to the U.S. Armed Forces.
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SEASON SERIES SNAPSHOT
Today’s matchup begins a stretch in which the Eastern Conference rivals will square off twice over the next three weeks and three times in the final six games of the regular season. It’s also just the second meeting between the two teams in Rochester and the fourth overall with Philadelphia claiming all three prior get-togethers dating back to the Knighthawks’ inaugural 2019-20 campaign. The contest features three of the league’s top six point-getters against Mitch Jones Joe Resetarits of the Wings and Connor Fields of the Knighthawks. Jones, who came over to Philadelphia in a midseason trade from Vancouver, ranks third in the NLL in overall scoring with 87 points in (28+59) in 13 games while Resetarits ranks fifth with 77 points (31+46). Fields, meanwhile, sits just one point back of Resetarits with 76 points (38+38) during what has become a record-setting season for the fourth-year forward.
HASEN CHASING HISTORY
Leading the Knighthawks into their third 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 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, 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. With 96 career wins entering the weekend, including four last season, Hasen remains on pace to become just the sixth coach in NLL history to reach 100 career wins. Hasen recently surpassed legendary head coach Les Bartley for sixth all-time following the win over Halifax on Feb. 11. With a 96-102 career coaching record, Hasen is only two games away from becoming just the fifth head coach in league history to have coached 200 professional games and the second this season, joining Georgia’s Ed Comeau, who previously served as head coach of the original Knighthawks franchise. Should the Knighthawks win today, it will mark the first 10-win season for Hasen since the 2017-18 campaign.
HOME, SWEET HOME
Coming into tonight, the Knighthawks remain the only team unbeaten at home this season, sporting a perfect 5-0 record through their first five games in Rochester. The Knighthawks have outscored their opponents 70-52 over that span, including a 17-9 win over Panther City back on Jan. 7, while holding the opposition to fewer than 10 goals on back-to-back occasions. Only the Toronto Rock, who are 6-1 and have outscored their opponents 103-62 at home this season, have a larger goal differential (+41) than Rochester. With a win this afternoon, not only will the Knighthawks improve to 6-0 at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena, but they will secure their first 10-win season in franchise history.
LAST TIME OUT
A thrilling, high-scoring affair between the Knighthawks and the Georgia Swarm came down to the final minute, where Rochester ultimately survived a late game push by the Swarm and held on for a narrow 19-18 win last Sunday at Gas South Arena. Both teams traded five-goal runs in the first and second quarters as well as a three-goal run in the final 15 minutes before the Knighthawks held off the final push to improve to 2-0 against Georgia this season while also snapping a three-game road skid in the process. It was another record-setting night for forward Connor Fields, who a week after establishing the new single-season scoring record, set the franchise mark for goals (38) and tied the mark for assists (38) on the strength of his second 10-point performance of the season. By factoring in on 10 of Rochester’s franchise-best 19 goals, Fields, whose only other 10-point effort this season also came against Georgia back during opening weekend, moved into fifth in the NLL in scoring with 76 points and second with 38 goals in 11 games. The forward also surpassed his previous career-high of 67 points which he set last season as a member of the Buffalo Bandits. With five goals in the first half, including a hat trick in the opening quarter, Fields also tied the franchise record for goals in a game, joining Thomas Hoggarth and Holden Cattoni as the only three players to accomplish the feat. Newcomer Joe Post made his professional debut, winning 13-of-37 face-off attempts while recovering six loose balls.
KNIGHTHAWKS AGREE TO TERMS WITH CANANDAIGUA NATIVE
The Knighthawks last week signed defenseman and face-off specialist Joe Post to a one-year deal for the remainder of the season. A native of Canandaigua, Post is one of the most decorated players to come out of Division III St. John Fisher University in Rochester, where he was a two-time USILA All-America First Team selection and holds NCAA Division III all-time records for career face-off wins (1,250) and groundball recoveries (854). A four-time Empire 8 All-Conference honoree, he also owns the distinction of becoming just the second player in program history to be crowned Empire 8 Conference Player of the Year. In 78 career games with the Cardinals, Post scored 17 goals and added 10 assists for 27 points. He also won 1,250-of-1,755 face-off attempts, good for a. 704 winning percentage. He won more than 200 face-offs in four of his five seasons and topped the 300-mark twice, including 336 during his sophomore campaign, while helping Fisher to three straight NCAA National Championship tournament appearances.
DYNAMIC DUO TAKING FLIGHT
It should come as no surprise by now that the Knighthawks have one of the elite offensive tandems in the NLL in forwards Connor Fields and Ryan Smith. Rivaling that of Buffalo’s Dhane Smith and Josh Byrne, the duo has combined for 62 goals and 131 points so far this season, even connecting on four of Rochester’s 11 goals in the overtime win against the Riptide back on Feb. 25. Following his 11th straight multi-goal effort to begin the season, Fields enters the weekend ranked second in the NLL in goals (38), trailing only New York’s Jeff Teat in that category, and fifth in points (76) despite missing one game. By averaging nearly seven points per game through his first 11 games of the season, highlighted by four straight weeks of four-goal efforts, Fields is well on pace to reach the 100-point mark for the first time in his pro career. With six games remaining in the regular season, he’s already set the franchise marks for goals and points in a season and will establish the new record for assists on his very next assist. Dating back to his rookie season in 2019-20, Fields, who was originally a first-round pick (10th overall) of the San Diego Seals in 2018, has recorded at least one point in 41 of his 43 career NLL games, including at least two points in all 11 games so far this season. After taking his first season in the NLL by storm, Smith has picked up where he left from a year ago. Smith, who last season was one of only four rookies to reach the 50-point mark, ranks third on the team in goals (24) and points (55) while appearing in all 12 games. He’s also tied for second in the league with a team-best nine power-play tallies. Smith, who successfully reached the 100-point mark in only 27 career games, the fastest in franchise history to do so, led all NLL rookies and set the single-season franchise record with eight power-play goals last season on his way to earning All-Rookie Team honors. Rochester is 5-1 this season when both players score at least twice in the same game.
SCOUTING THE WINGS
Philadelphia, playing its second game of the weekend after hosting Georgia on Saturday, has brought in some significant offensive reinforcements beginning with the off-season addition of perennial goal-scorer Joe Resetarits followed by the midseason acquisition of Mitch Jones by way of a trade from Vancouver. The duo enter the weekend having combined for 59 goals and 164 points while both remain on pace to the reach 100-point mark by season’s end. Jones also ranks second in the league with a team-high 59 assists. Resetarits is certainly no stranger to Rochester having spent five seasons with the previous Knighthawks franchise from 2015-19, during which he recorded 279 points over 78 career games. He capped off his final full season in 2017-18 in historic fashion, establishing career-highs in goals (37), assists (63) and points (100), becoming the first American-born player to log a 100-point season in league history. He was later selected to the NLL All-Pro Second Team. Veteran goaltender Zach Higgins has played virtually every minute this season for the Wings, boasting a 5-6 record with an 11.91 goals-against average. Higgins, who ranks fourth among all netminders in saves (473), is coming off a 46-save effort yesterday against Georgia which saw him surpass 3,000 saves for his pro career.
A HOMECOMING FOR RIORDEN
Tonight’s game will serve as a homecoming for Wings forward and Fairport native Blaze Riorden, who has made a name for himself in both field and box lacrosse. Considered one of the top goaltenders in the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL), Riorden led Team Chaos to back-to-back appearances in the PLL Championship Series, winning the title in 2021 after finishing second in 2020. In 2020, he posted a league-high 119 saves on his way to earning the Oren Lyons Goalie of the Tournament Award. During the regular season, he led all netminders with a .558 save percentage and 153 saves, earning him Goalie of the Year honors. Prior to turning pro, Riorden played his college lacrosse at the University at Albany, where he was named an All-American and was the America East Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. He graduated as the program’s Division I all-time leader in saves with 849.