The last time the Rochester Knighthawks hit the floor in regular season action was on March 8, 2020. It’s been a while since the young franchise had to abruptly end their inaugural season in the National Lacrosse League, however, the almost two-year hiatus seems to have fared the Knighthawks quite well.
The preseason kicked off last weekend in Oakville, Ontario, where the Knighthawks participated in two practice sessions and one scrimmage against the Buffalo Bandits.
“Awesome. It was just so good to see everybody,” stated Rochester Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey when asked how nice it was to see his players face-to-face for the first time in forever.
With the key additions of league veterans like goaltender Evan Kirk and defenseman Dan Coates, it’s hard not to get excited to see what Rochester will string together come this season. Add on the 19-8 victory the Knighthawks put on Buffalo in that preseason matchup and it seems the new is meshing well with the originals from the 2019-20 season.
Rochester’s roster still sports players like feisty forward Shawn Evans, leading goal-scorer Holden Cattoni and All-Rookie Team selection Ryland Rees. Combine these players with some of the signings Carey and staff have made in the last 20 months, and something special seems to be brewing.
“It was really cool to see how committed they were already,” commented Carey when discussing how well the group came together in such a short span. “Overall, it was a great weekend and I think part of that is their commitment. They’ve committed to each other, themselves and to each and every person in this organization.”
As much as Carey was impressed with the team’s commitment to one another, he was equally impressed with how the squad came in with a business-like mindset ready to get back to work.
“It was business. Guys were excited but they came in and went right to work.”
Could this be because it’s been so long since the NLL has been out of action? Carey seems to think that the league’s hiatus may have added an appreciation factor for the season ahead.
“There might be an added appreciation to it, right? You have something that you love, and you’ve done for so long and it’s just a part of you and now you’re put in a situation where you’re not able to do it for a certain amount of time and it’s been taken away from you. It’s almost like, ‘hey, now we’re not going to take this for granted’.”
That added appreciation didn’t go unnoticed as the Knighthawks were ecstatic to be able to get back to playing something they love and have missed so dearly. Carey mentioned how it was the “medicine” they all needed, staff included, to finally feel like things were back to normal.
“They felt like they were finally able to do what they wanted to for so long and it was the same with us. The Native American culture sees lacrosse as the medicine game, and one of our players said that and it’s true. It felt like it was kind of that medicine that we needed to feel good and get back to normal.”
Along with the rush of emotions that preseason brought upon the Knighthawks, it helped provide proof on how much the team has grown since their inaugural season in the league in 2019-20 in more ways than one.
“Overall, we’re a better team and I think there’s a few different reasons for that.”
Carey then went on to explain, “We’ve brought in additional players and that’s what should be done. Through each season you’re trying to get better and you’re bringing in different players that you think are going to enhance the quality and product of your team. Then, I think there’s a lot of our younger players that we had year one that have physically developed more, that have more confidence, have had that experience and now know what to expect.”
Although it’s been a while since we’ve seen the Knighthawks in action, the wait seems to be worth all the while after what Carey saw at training camp. Time has given the franchise to do all the right things to get better than before.
“We went through two free agency periods. We went through two drafts. That right there is an opportunity to get better.”