The Rochester Knighthawks set out on a two-game trek through the West Division this weekend with games on back-to-back night. On Saturday, the Knighthawks take on the San Diego Seals with game time slated for 10:30 p.m. ET before closing out their final back-to-back weekend of the season the following day with a 7:00 p.m. ET face-off against the Colorado Mammoth.
As Rochester begins its cross-country trek to the west coast, they do so with momentum on its side looking to build off the success they had this past weekend which saw the Knighthawks earn their second win of the season.
Last Saturday night began as a relatively calm matchup between the NLL’s two expansion franchises but then the contest quickly escalated into one of the biggest back-and-forth offensive battles of the season as the Knighthawks survived a late push from the New York Riptide and held on for a thrilling 13-12 win at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena.
Curtis Knight led the Knighthawks with eight assists, including the 200th of his pro career early in the second quarter. Holden Cattoni recorded six points on the night, while also earning his fourth hat trick on the year. Dan Michel and Mark Cockerton both recorded their first multi-goal efforts in a Rochester uniform, while Turner Evans also tallied two markers during the contest. Phil Caputo, Ryland Rees and Doug Utting all contributed to the scoresheet with a goal apiece.
Goaltender Rylan Hartley made his third consecutive start in the crease, making 49 saves on the 61 shots he faced and Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey had much to say about the rookie’s compete level during his first professional win.
“His compete level. There was a stretch there where I don’t think we were at our best, and he wasn’t tracking the ball as well as he was early on, and I think he came up big at the end with a few saves that we needed.”
Heading into this weekend, the Knighthawks are gearing up for their second and final set of back-to-back games. As their focus lies solely on the game that comes first, the Knighthawks will be taking on the Seals out in San Diego who currently sit in third place in the West Division.
“The Seals had a bit of a slow start but have won their last two games and seem to be playing really well right now, so we expect them to be a tough opponent,” said Carey when asked what to expect in San Diego.
Looking at the Seals offense, they have three players alone that have 40 or more points through their first 11 games of the season. Forward Wesley Berg leads San Diego with 17 goals and 50 points, while forwards Jeremy Noble and Zack Greer don’t fall far behind, combining for 87 points, and Greer leading his team with 18 tallies.
In the crease, it’s a little bit of a different scene than what Rochester has seen from any team this year as San Diego’s netminders seem to equally split their time out on the floor. Frank Scigliano is the veteran of the two as he’s in his ninth year in the National Lacrosse League and second with the Seals. So far this season, Scigliano has logged 284:17 in net with a 2-5 record and stopping 77 of the 253 shots that he’s faced. On the complete other side of the spectrum, rookie goaltender Nick Damude is having a breakout year, boasting a 3-1 record with a 9.71 goals-against average in his 10 appearances.
Moving on to Sunday in Colorado, the Knighthawks are going to be taking on a team that is fighting for that top spot in the West Division. Just 1.5 games back from the Saskatchewan Rush, Colorado has an overall record of 6-6 with just six more games left on its schedule, including this weekend’s matchup.
Despite the Pepsi Center being Carey’s old stomping grounds as both a player and a general manager, it’s all business when him and his squad roll into town come Sunday evening.
“Colorado is a top-notch organization and I have a lot of respect for the people and players on that side, but it’s a business trip and what I’m most excited about is the opportunity to continue to get better and compete for a win.”
On offense for the Mammoth, there are four players that are all well above the 40-point mark on the year. Ryan Lee leads the Colorado offense with 22 goals and 56 points, while both Eli McLaughlin and Chris Wardle have combined for 30 goals on the year and 92 points. Mammoth newcomer Tyler Digby made his Colorado debut just last Saturday and came in exactly where he left off with the Riptide, notching six points in his debut with two goals and four assists and pushing his season point total to 48.
Lee has been the driving force behind Colorado’s offense this season, leading the team in virtually every offensive category, including goals (22), assists (34) and points (56), in addition to a team-high 149 shots. The third-year pro also paces the Mammoth in power-play scoring with 16 points (6+10) on the man-advantage and remains the only player to surpass the 50-point mark so far this season. He comes into the weekend ranked seventh in the league in scoring and is tied for ninth in assists and 10th in goals, respectively.
Dylan Kinnear currently ranks in scoring among all NLL rookies with 17 points (9+8) in nine games this season. His 17 points are also second-most among all defensemen. Ward leads all goaltenders with 507 saves and ranks fourth in the NLL with a 9.33 goals-against average and a .819 save percentage.
The Mammoth have two players on their current roster with ties to Rochester in both Lee and fellow forward Kyle Killen, both of whom played collegiate lacrosse at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Arguably one of the most decorated players to come out of the program, Lee played four seasons with the Tigers before departing as the school’s all-time leader in goals (237) and points (373) while placing fourth all-time with 136 career assists. A two-time Liberty League Offensive Player of the Year, Lee set a single-season record with 111 points during the 2017 season. He recorded at least one point in 84 of his 86 career appearances and remains the only player in program history to surpass the 300-careet point mark. He finished his tenure sixth all-time in NCAA Division III scoring and seventh in goals. Killen, who was selected in the same Draft year as Lee, scored 118 goals over two seasons with the Tigers. He was named to the NLL All-Rookie Team last season after producing 49 points on 28 goals and 21 assists in 15 games.
Dillon Ward will more than likely be the netminder that the Knighthawks will see in the crease for the Mammoth. In his seventh season in the NLL, the veteran goaltender has logged 720:31 in his 12 games played. Despite allowing 112 goals, Ward has made a league-high 507 saves in goal, giving him a 9.33 goals-against average, which ranks fourth among all netminders.
“I think the mental part of it is a hurdle, so it’s important that we go into this with the right mindset. We need to be prepared just like any other game regardless of what happened the night before or what is happening the day after,” commented Carey when asked what the most difficult task to overcome would be during this back-to-back weekend.
Rochester returns home on Saturday, Mar. 14 when they host the North Division rival Halifax Thunderbirds in the first of back-to-back meetings at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:00 p.m. and will be carried live on 107.3 FM The Bull as well as B/R Live. Fans can stay up to date all season long with the latest Knighthawks news, stories and notes at www.rochesterknighthawks.com.