The Rochester Knighthawks are four games into the 2022-23 National Lacrosse League campaign and, wow, are they off to a hot start.
For the first time in franchise history, Rochester has started off the year with four-straight wins, the latest accentuated by a record-setting 17-goal performance Saturday against Panther City. Topping it all off, goaltender Rylan Hartley has pulled off pure insanity in the crease and the offensive depth is proof as to how good this Knighthawks team has the potential to be.
We cover it all, and more, with Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey in this week’s edition of Hawk Talk.
OFFENSE GOING OFF
By winning their fourth straight on Saturday over Panther City, the Knighthawks have now tied a franchise record for wins in a season and their 17 goals were the most scored in a single game in their three-year history. More impressively, all of it was done without their leading goal-scorer and the former NLL’s leading point-getter, Connor Fields, even in the lineup.
“We had a lot of different players step up,” said Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey when asked where the offensive production stemmed from this weekend. “Holden Cattoni, Thomas Hogarth, Curtis Knight, Ryan Smith – I think those four guys led our offense and, again, the wealth was shared. I think there’s a lot of guys that contributed on the scoresheet and it was good to do that without our leading scorer.”
DEPTH HELPING ALLEVIATE PRESSURE
The first quarter of Saturday’s 17-9 win was the embodiment of a true team effort for the Knighthawks, who stormed out to a 5-2 lead on the strength of five different goal-scorers and five players recording multi-point efforts in the opening frame. However, it was even more impressive that going into the half the Knighthawks now had eight different goal-scorers on the stat sheet.
The squad set a franchise record on Saturday night for most goals scored in a single game with 17!
Let’s go! pic.twitter.com/LzVbuVyNLV
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) January 9, 2023
Further proving just how much offensive depth this Knighthawks roster has this season, which helps alleviate pressure off players like Fields, Cattoni and Hoggarth to have to perform at their best every single night.
“That’s our main goal, is to have that type of depth,” said Carey when asked about depth helping alleviate pressure on certain players and what’s expected from them. “If we have one player that that isn’t able to play, or is injured, or just isn’t on that night and not contributing as they would expect to be, we have other guys to step up.”
On Saturday, Cattoni and Hoggarth both turned in a seven-point effort with four goals and three assists each, while Curtis Knight also totaled seven points as he scored once while adding a team-high six assists. Second-year pro Ryan Smith recorded a hat trick while Matt Gilray also produced a multi-goal outing with two markers. Turner Evans, Austin Hasen, and Ryland Rees rounded out the scoring, each adding a goal on the night.
This is the exact kind of scoring depth that Carey and staff have been building towards since the Knighthawks inaugural season in the league in 2019-20.
A nice pass from Smith and a wicked shot from Cattoni for his first of the game on Saturday!
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) January 9, 2023
“That’s what we’re building towards is having the type of depth that if you’re missing a few players in the lineup, other guys are able to contribute and chip in and, again, a full team effort is what we need to win in this league. It showed that guys are able to step up and contribute in the absence of another player that has been having success early on in the year.”
DEFENSE BUCKLING DOWN
Not only has the depth on the Knighthawks offense proven to be strong, but the defense has continued to give Rochester ample leads in games.
Coming into the last weekend, Panther City was the only team in the NLL to have recorded over 300 shots while averaging 75.5 shots per game. Rochester’s defense went on to hold Panther City to 56 shots and just nine goals…not too shabby.
“They’ve been playing really well together all year and I’ll go back to last year where we had quite a few injuries. We had a few younger guys that had to step up. We were on our third string goalie and I think the last six or seven games of the year, our defense was really dialed in and played well together,” said Carey on what the defensive focus heading into this season.
However, defense doesn’t just stop at the transition players and defensemen on the Knighthawks roster. Hartley has kept the Knighthawks in every game this season with his athletic acrobatics and 10.00 goals-against average while the defense continues to play well in front of him.
“It does start with Rylan Hartley. He’s been great so far this year, but our defense has been really good in front of him, and they’re just playing really well as a team and we’re quick to get the ball out of our end as well,” finished Carey when discussing the Knighthawks defensive efforts against Panther City on Sunday.
LOOKING AT THE WEEK AHEAD
This Sunday, the Knightawks are back in action as they take on the New York Riptide for the first of two matchups this season.
“For us, we just need to keep doing what we’re doing and you have to prepare and have to be ready for the opponent that you’re up against and each team is going to be a little bit different as far as how they play their personnel wise,” said Carey when asked about matching up against the Riptide.
The Riptide offense is led by reigning NLL Rookie of the Year Jeff Teat, who has posted 20 points on six goals and 14 assists through three games. In net, it’s truly a toss-up as to whom the Knighthawks will face, in either goaltender Gowah Abrams or Steve Orleman. Both goaltenders have appeared in all three of New York’s games this season, however, Orleman has the slight edge with 119:49 minutes in the crease and 94 saves.
However, Carey isn’t really worried about New York and wants the Knighthawks to continue to focus on themselves and their play more than anything heading into Sunday.
“We’ve been doing a good job of focusing on us. We can’t start to feel good about ourselves. We can’t start to enjoy it too much. We have to continue to work, and that’s who we are. That’s our identity as a team that really focuses on hard work and all the little things.”
Carey then finished with, “We have another tough challenge, like we do every week, and we have to prepare as best as we can. Going into New York and playing against a difficult team, we have to continue to do what we have been doing to start the year.”
The Knighthawks look to push their win streak to five straight as they travel to Nassau Coliseum to face the Riptide this Sunday, Jan. 15. Faceoff is set for 3 p.m. and will be available on Big 107.3 and ESPN+.