While one might think tonight’s storyline is the big brother rivalry between the Rochester Knighthawks and Buffalo Bandits, or forward Connor Fields having a chip on his shoulder as he takes on his former team, the true tale lies between the pipes for both clubs.
On one side of the floor we have, arguably, one of the best netminders in National Lacrosse League history in Buffalo’s Matt Vinc. The other side, for Rochester, features third-year pro Rylan Hartley in the crease and a player who grew up idolizing the other netminder across the floor tonight.
“Vino (Vinc) was a huge role model,” started Hartley when asked about being across the floor from Vinc. “There were a few favorite goalies that I watched as a kid, and the one was Bob Watson. I was always a huge, huge fan of Bob, and the next one, when Bob retired, was Vino. Vino is a great athlete. He represents the game very well and he’s just who every kid I think wants to be like when they grow up.”
Currently, Vinc leads the league with 199 saves and ranks second with his four wins. An eight-time NLL Goaltender of the Year, which includes last season, Vinc spent eight seasons with the previous Knighthawks franchise from 2011 to 2018, backstopping the team to three straight NLL championships in 2012, 2013 and again in 2014.
Vinc, who’s also an eight-time NLL All-Pro Fist-Team selection, is the all-time leader in minutes played with 13,988 and tonight will become the first goaltender in league history to play 14,000 minutes in goal.
Now, Hartley needs to give himself a little more credit as he’s been a major catalyst to Rochester’s perfect start to the season.
Through five starts, Hartley leads the NLL with a perfect five wins, is tied for second with 300 minutes played and ranks third with his 198 saves. Hartley also ranks third and fourth among all netminders with a 9.60 goals-against average and a .800 save percentage, respectively.
However, as steady and consistent as Hartley has been for Rochester this season, tonight marks a huge honor to share the floor with someone so tenured in the league the Knighthawks netminder is trying to make a name for himself in.
“It’s a huge honor to be on the same floor as Vino, but at the end of the day we’re going to compete and it’s not me versus him or offense versus offense. It’s team versus team here.”
Hartley then finished with, “So it’s the Bandits versus the Knighthawks tonight and that’s always what it’s going to come down to.”
The two hottest teams in the NLL battle it out tonight as the undefeated Knighthawks put their franchise-best five-game win streak on the line against the defending Eastern Conference champion Bandits in what promises to be an epic showdown at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:30 p.m. matchup will be the first of two meetings between the intrastate rivals and will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.