TONIGHT’S GAME OVERVIEW
The red-hot Rochester Knighthawks (3-0) put their season-opening three-game win streak on the line tonight as they fly west to take on the San Diego Seals (1-1) for the only time this season at Pechanga Arena. Game time is slated for a 10:00 p.m. ET start and will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+. The Knighthawks remain one of only four unbeaten teams this season and join intrastate rival Albany as the only two teams to boast unblemished 3-0 records through their first three games of the 2023-24 campaign.
HOW THE TEAMS MATCHUP
A win tonight in sunny San Diego would not only extend Rochester’s current win streak to four games but give the team a perfect 4-0 start to the season for the second straight year after the Knighthawks won six straight to open the 2022-23 campaign. Tonight’s matchup marks the lone meeting of the season between the two teams and just the second all-time after the Knighthawks came out on the wrong side of a lopsided 19-6 loss in the only previous get-together during their inaugural campaign in 2019-20. The Knighthawks, who enter the contest averaging nearly 15 goals per game through their first three games of the season, have outscored the opposition in all but one quarter this season, which includes 23-15 combined in the second half. The Seals, meanwhile, have the NLL’s fifth-best defense, averaging 10.50 goals-against and join Panther City as the only two teams to have an equal number of goals-for and goals-against (21).
LAST TIME OUT
The Knighthawks used a six-goal run in the second quarter and a seven-point effort from newcomer Ryan Lanchbury (2+5) to earn a 13-11 win over the Vancouver Warriors this past Saturday at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. Ryan Smith (3+2) and Connor Fields (2+3) each turned in five-point nights while Riley Hutchcraft finished with 20 saves over 24 minutes of relief. Smith recorded his third straight hat trick to begin the season, including a pair of goals as well as the eventual game-winner midway through the fourth quarter to lead the Knighthawks to their third straight win. Two weeks after setting the single-game franchise records for face-off wins and loose balls, Joe Post had another dominant performance at the center dot, winning 19-of-26 face-off attempts, all of which came against former Knighthawk defenseman Chris Willman.
100 AND COUTING FOR HASEN
Last Saturday’s 13-11 win over Vancouver came with historical significance in the fact that it not only improved Rochester to 3-0 for the second straight year, but also served as the 100th win for Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen, who became just the sixth coach in league history to reach 100 career wins. Hasen surpassed legendary head coach Les Bartley for sixth all-time following the win over Halifax on Feb. 11 of last season, making him one of three finalists for the 2023 NLL Coach of the Year. He also joined elite company back on March 25 in Las Vegas, when he was behind the bench for his 200th regular-season game, a feat only five others in league history have accomplished before him. He became just the sixth head coach – and third last season behind Georgia’s Ed Comeau and Vancouver’s Troy Cordingley – to have coached 200 National Lacrosse League games. Hasen also owns the distinction of being the only member of the prestigious group, which also includes Paul Day, Darris Kilgour and Saskatchewan general manager Derek Keenan, to reach the mark having spent his entire career in the same city. 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, who would be named NLL Coach of the Year in 2011, 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.
Both Rochester and San Diego come into the matchup as two of the league’s highest shooting teams. Coming into this weekend, the Knighthawks currently lead the NLL with 245 total shots taken, 166 of which have been on goal, and rank second behind only Halifax in average shots per game (81.6). San Diego remains at a close fourth with 76.5 shots per game through its first two games of the season. Rochester has outshot the opposition in two of its first three games this season, twice topping the 50-shot mark, including 64 in the team’s season-opening win over Calgary earlier this month. One of two only teams averaging more than 80 shots per game, the Knighthawks are 2-1 this season when outshooting the opponent and 2-0 when surpassing the 50-shot mark. Connor Fields set the franchise record for the most shots in a game with 18 in the 14-13 win over Calgary on Dec. 2.
Second-year face-off specialist Joe Post has been nearly unbeatable at the center dot this season, leading the league with 62 face-off wins on 88 attempts for a 70.4% success rate while also recovering an NLL-best 41 loose balls. Post’s 24 face-off wins earlier this month in Saskatchewan set the new single-game mark, far surpassing his own record of 19 he set in the 2022-23 regular-season finale against Philadelphia on April 29. Dating back to his rookie season, Post, who played his collegiate lacrosse at nearby St. John Fisher University, has won 125-of-219 career face-off attempts, good for a 57.1% efficiency rate.
McCONVEY MAKING HIS MARK
After being held scoreless in Rochester’s season-opening win over Calgary earlier this month, rookie forward Thomas McConvey has settled in and found his scoring touch that made him worthy of being selected first overall by Rochester in the 2022 NLL Entry Draft. The rookie forward is coming off back-to-back four-point outings, highlighted by a hat trick in the Week 2 win at Saskatchewan. With eight points (4+4) through his first three games, McConvey enters the contest third amongst all NLL rookies in goals (4), tied for fifth in assists (4) and third in points (8). He’s also fifth in loose ball recoveries (11) points per game (2.67). The highly touted forward, one of eight to make Rochester’s season-opening roster, signed a multi-year deal with the Knighthawks after being named the nation’s top midfielder this past season as a fifth-year graduate student at the University of Virginia. He was also one of three Cavaliers players to be named a USILA First Team All-American in 2023. McConvey, who carried a 52-game point streak into his graduate season at Virginia, the longest in the nation, started all 17 games for the Cavaliers, scoring 28 goals and adding 24 assists for 52 points. Prior to joining Virginia, McConvey played four years at the University of Vermont, where he was a three-time USILA and Inside Lacrosse All-American. One of the most decorated players in program history, the Toronto, Ontario, native assembled one of the most dominant offensive performances as a senior in 2022, setting a program-record with 60 goals, becoming the first player in school history to score more than 50 in a season. He also added 14 assists for a career-high 74 points while starting in all 19 games for the Catamounts, earning him America East Offensive Player of the Year and ECAC Offensive Player of the Year honors. McConvey is just the second player in Vermont history to be tabbed the top player by America East. He also scored 12 goals in the America East championship on his way to being named the Most Outstanding Player during Vermont’s run to its second straight conference championship.
HAVE A FIELD DAY
Coming off his five-point effort in Saturday’s win over Vancouver, Fields, who was named the Gatorade Player of the Week for Week 2, officially surpassed Albany’s Alex Simmons for the NLL scoring lead with 22 points (10+12) in three games. Fields, who was originally a first-round pick (10th overall) of the San Diego Seals in 2018, is also tied for the league lead with 10 goals and while his 68 shots are most across the entire NLL. Additionally, Fields paces all NLL forwards with 26 loose ball recoveries. With a pair of goals last week against the Warriors, the East Amherst native has now scored two or more goals in 20 straight games dating back to last season. Fields, who last season became just the third American-born player to top the 100-point mark, has led the team in scoring in 16 of his last 20 outings and has recorded at least one point in 50 of his 52 career games dating back to his rookie campaign in San Diego.
SCOUTING THE SEALS
Coming off a bye week, San Diego comes into the matchup on the heels of a 12-9 loss to the reigning NLL champion Buffalo Bandits back on Dec. 16. Veteran forward Curtis Dickson, who’s in his first season with the Seals following 11 with the Calgary Roughnecks, fuels the San Diego offense with eight assists and 12 points. Fifth-year pro Austin Staats, who’s coming off back-to-back 37-goal seasons, leads the Seals with six goals. The first overall pick in 2018, Staats was named the 2019 NLL Rookie of the Year after leading all first-year players in goals (32) and points (61) and ranking second in assists (29).