TONIGHT’S GAME OVERVIEW
The Rochester Knighthawks (3-8) head north of the border for their first matchup of the season outside the Eastern Conference tonight when they take on the Saskatchewan Rush (3-9) for the only time this season. The matchup from SaskTel Centre gets underway at 9:30 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 RUSH STATS||2021-22 KNIGHTHAWKS STATS|
|2021-22 NLL STANDINGS||LISTEN LIVE ON 107.3 FM THE BULL|
SEASON SERIES SNAPSHOT
Tonight’s contest marks the first-ever meeting and the only get-together of the season between the two teams, who enter the weekend boasting nearly identical records and sit in last place in their respective conferences. The Rush, who are coming off a 14-12 loss to Calgary on Thursday, have dropped three straight and five of their last six while the Knighthawks have come up winless in seven of their last eight dating back to their 12-8 loss to Georgia on Jan. 21. Rochester has claimed two of its three wins this season on the road, whereas the Rush have been more successful at home with two of their three wins coming within the friendly confines of SaskTel Centre. Both teams rank among the top five teams in shots with Saskatchewan averaging the second-most shots per game with 54.08 behind only the Toronto Rock. The Knighthawks, meanwhile, rank fifth in that regard, averaging exactly 52 shots per game through their first 11 games of the season. Despite the offensive struggles for each team this season, the Knighthawks and Rush are both 3-1 when leading after the third quarter. Conversely, both teams are winless when trailing after three quarters.
LAST TIME OUT
The Knighthawks pulled within a goal after falling behind 6-0 in the opening quarter but could not even the score as they dropped a 15-12 back-and-forth affair to the New York Riptide last Saturday at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. Thomas Hoggarth led the Knighthawks with a career-high five goals and six points. His five goals, four of which came in the second quarter, tied the single-game franchise record originally set established by Holden Cattoni during the team’s inaugural campaign in 2019-20, while also picking up his fourth multi-goal effort of the season. Ryan Smith (2+2) and Turner Evans (1+3) both collected four points each while Curtis Knight (1+2), Ryland Rees (1+1), Matt Gilray (0+2) and Cattoni (1+2) all turned in a multi-point performance. Smith’s four-point effort was his eighth straight multi-point game dating back to Dec. 11. Tyler Halls also scored his first professional goal in the third quarter while goaltender Joel Watson posted 37 saves in what was his first career start in the National Lacrosse League.
HOMECOMING OF SORTS
Tonight’s game marks the return of Knighthawks veteran forward and alternate captain Curtis Knight, who makes his first trip back to Saskatchewan after being acquired by Rochester in the fifth round of the 2019 NLL Expansion Draft. Knight spent the first six seasons of his NLL career with the Saskatchewan Rush from 2013-19, recording 307 points (122+185) and 350 loose balls in 99 games. The Oshawa, Ontario, native helped the Rush to six consecutive first-place finishes in the regular season while also leading the team to a pair of NLL titles over a three-year span. In his second season with the Rush in 2014, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound forward was named team MVP after registering a career-high 72 points, including 35 goals, which ranked 10th in the NLL. Knight was originally drafted by the Edmonton Rush in the first round (eighth overall) of the 2012 NLL Entry Draft. Knighthawks goaltender Evan Kirk, who is sitting out the remainder of the season on the holdout list, compiled an impressive 25-9 record in 41 appearances with the Rush over the last three seasons, winning an NLL championship along the way. He earned a career-high 12 wins in 2017-18 in his first season with the Rush and went 3-1 during the postseason while backstopping the team to its second NLL title in three years. 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.
SMITH SETTLING IN AND PILING UP THE POINTS
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 his four-point night last Saturday against New York, Smith comes into the matchup tied for third among all first-year players with 19 goals while his 40 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 fifth with 21 assists. Additionally, Smith has the second-most power-play points among all league rookies with 12, which includes a team-high five 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 seven of his last eight games and has four hat tricks over that span, including three of his last four.
KNIGHTHAWKS MAKE MIDSEASON MOVES
The Knighthawks made a series of roster moves earlier last week, with perhaps the biggest one being the departure of two-time NLL MVP Shawn Evans following a trade with the Halifax Thunderbirds in exchange for a second-round selection in the 2023 NLL Entry Draft as well as a future first-round NLL Entry Draft compensatory pick. Evans, who was originally acquired by the Knighthawks first overall in the 2019 NLL Expansion Draft, led the team with 38 assists and 47 points in 10 games this season. The 16-year pro appeared in all 19 games for Rochester dating back to the 2019-20 season, totaling 90 points on 23 goals and 67 assists over that span. The Knighthawks also made two free agent signings, including 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. 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 RUSH
Despite the team’s overall struggles this season, the Rush have two of the league’s top point-getters in veteran forwards Robert Church and Mark Matthews, who are eighth and 11th in the league scoring with 61and 57 points, respectively. Church currently leads the Rush and ranks fourth among league leaders with 29 goals, including a league-best 11 power-play tallies while Matthews’s 37 assists place him 12th in the NLL in that category coming into the weekend. Church, who’s played his entire NLL career with the Rush since being drafted by the team fifth overall in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft, has scored at least one goal in but one game this season. More impressively, the three-time NLL champion has recorded six hat tricks, including a season-high five goals as part of a seven-point showing to close out the month of February. Church, a former NLL All-Rookie Team selection, is on pace to reach the 30-goal mark for the sixth time in seven years. He previously led the NLL in power-play goals for three straight seasons during a run in which he led Saskatchewan to three NLL titles in a four-year span. The Rush also own one of the top scoring defensemen in Holden Garlent, whose 13 points (4+9) are second behind only Vancouver’s Reid Bowering coming into this weekend. He’s also fourth among players at his position in goals (4) and tied for third in assists (9). Saskatchewan is one of a few teams this season to utilize a goaltending tandem in that of Adam Shute and Eric Penney. Shute has carried much of the workload so far with a 2-6 record in nine games while Penney, who’s in his first season with the Rush following five with the Vancouver Warriors, boasts a 2-2 record in six contests. Both netminders rank among the top nine in goals-against average with Shute ranking fifth (10.10) and Penney ninth (11.10). The Rush have the NLL’s fourth-best power-play unit at home having gone 8-for-17 for a 47.1% conversion rate, including 3-for-7 over their last home contests.
- Curtis Knight needs seven points to reach 400 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 just the eighth player in NLL history to surpass 500 career penalty minutes at Buffalo on Feb. 5.
- Turner Evans surpassed 100 career assists as part of a five-point effort at Albany on Dec. 18.
- Rush forward Dan Lintner was a member of Rochester’s inaugural season after being acquired by the Knighthawks in the sixth round of the 2019 NLL Expansion Draft. He scored the first goal in franchise history before being sent to Buffalo as part of a midseason trade.
- Rochester forward Mike Burke was a former third-round selection of the Rush in 2012.
- Knighthawks forward Curtis Knight and goaltender Evan Kirk both won NLL championships with the Rush.
UP NEXT FOR THE KNIGHTHAWKS
Rochester returns home on Saturday, March 26 to close out their season series against the Philadelphia Wings at Segar and Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:30 p.m. start 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.