The Rochester Knighthawks (2-0) aim to keep their undefeated start intact heading into the holidays when they welcome the Vancouver Warriors (1-1) to Segar and Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena Saturday evening.
“They are very disciplined in doing what they do,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “Defensively, they’re probably one of the most physical teams we’ll see this year. They’re big, they’re strong, and they’ll get up the floor. We’re going to have our hands full. Hopefully we’ll be able to utilize our strengths and defensively we have to be aware for what’s next and hopefully give a push back going up the floor.”
BATTLING THE BYE
After back-to-back winning weeks, Rochester’s schedule was put to a halt with the team’s first bye week of the 2023-24 season. Games will be far and few over the upcoming stretch, with the team amid a stretch where they play just four times over a seven-week span.
“You’re out of routine,” said Hasen. “You don’t have the gameday week in and week out, but we had a decent practice today that we hopefully got a lot of stuff out and we’ll be ready to go. The veterans know what we’re supposed to do and hopefully that translates here tonight.”
“In a lot of ways, I enjoy that,” said transition player Joe Post when asked about bye weeks. “It allows you to recover properly and get ready to go. You can keep pushing yourself in the weight room. In the college season it’s a lot of games in a season and they’re kind of jam-packed. That’s a lot of wear and tear on the body.”
“I think they have their pros and cons,” said defenseman and team captain Dan Coates. “At the beginning of the season you’d like to be playing every week to kind of get into a rhythm. That falls a lot on the players because we don’t get to be together a ton as a group during that time. Every team goes through it, but throughout the course of a season those bye weeks become meaningful with giving the body rest and with injuries.”
DIALED IN AT THE DOT
Post set the single-game franchise record with 24 face-off wins earlier this month in Saskatchewan. The local product out of Canandaigua is beginning his first full season in professional lacrosse after joining the ‘Hawks for five games last year.
“I try not to think about stats too much,” said Post. “I think the mindset going into every game is trying to do the best you can and win as many as face-offs as you can. Focus on the game first and worry about stats later.”
“He’s really important,” said Hasen. “He keeps our momentum and kills their momentum (with winning face-offs) that we’re able to get the ball back at that kind of turnaround pace. He’s been here for a half a year last season, and he’s gotten better every time he’s stepped on the floor for us and not only on the face-off side of things, but defensively last year, he would take a face-off and get off. Now if he’s out there, guys aren’t asking him to get off the floor. He’ll play a strong shift for us and do a good job.”
“Rochester’s my home,” said Post. I live here. I went to college and high school here. It definitely is a special thing to play in my home city. I’m pretty fortunate to be here.”
REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD
December 9 saw the reunion of lifelong friends Ryan Smith and Ryan Lanchbury as the latter was acquired in a trade with Georgia. Lanchbury has been friends with Smith since they were five and six-years-old, then became best friends near the start of their teenage years. The professional debut as a duo saw Smith post a hat trick to go with his six-point game, while Lanchbury amassed four points (2+2).
“It’s something we dreamt about as kids,” said Lanchbury. “We grew up together and have been through kind of everything together. We didn’t think we’d get this chance until later in our careers, but we were fortunate to get an early start here.”
“It’s a great story,” said Hasen. “They’ve been childhood friends from the get-go, so playing for the same team on the same floor is something that doesn’t happen very often, and they worked good together. You could see their chemistry as a two-man game. They were instinctive and knew what each other was going to do.”
“It still feels a little surreal, but I think it’ll become a little more normal as the weeks go on,” said Lanchbury.
HUNDRED FOR HASEN?
With a win tonight, Hasen could become the sixth coach in National Lacrosse League history to reach 100 wins. The Toronto, Ontario, native played 150 games over 12 NLL seasons, spending nine of those with the original Rochester Knighthawks. He has since served as head coach for both the original and current iteration of the ‘Hawks for 13 combined seasons.
“You can see how much this city means to him,” said Coates. “Him being a player and now a coach here. He absolutely loves it, and we can feel that as players. Ultimately, you can still tell he’s a player. For him to be sitting there at 99 wins is just a testament to how much he prepares and how much the game means to him. Obviously, success follows him, so he’s doing something right. My two-plus years here with him have been awesome. I love how detailed he is. We’re hoping to get the big one for him here tonight.”