After a week off, the Rochester Knighthawks are heading north of the border looking for redemption in the second half of a home-and-home set against the Toronto Rock at Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. The North Division matchup be heard live on 107.3 FM The Bull as well as B/R Live. The contest will also be broadcast to a global audience on the “NLL Game of the Week”. Fans can catch all the action, free of charge, across B/R Live domestically and Twitter and Facebook worldwide.
Just a little over a week ago, the Knighthawks found themselves in an uphill climb for the second time in a week’s span. Going into the half of the first matchup between the two teams, Rochester trailed the Rock just 6-3 before facing a 12-5 deficit late in the third quarter.
The comeback was on as forward Shawn Evans went on a three-goal run and completed his first hat trick of the season, edging the score closer in the Knighthawks favor early in the fourth quarter. Goals in the final minutes from Turner Evans and Curtis Knight brought Rochester as close as they would come before seeing its comeback bid fall just short for the second straight week in a 14-11 setback against the Rock.
Knight led the offensive charge for the Knighthawks with a team-high six-point (2+4) night while the duo of Shawn (3+2) and Turner Evans (2+2) combined for nine points. Steve Fryer earned his second straight start in net, turning aside 26 shots before being replaced by Craig Wende midway through the third quarter. Wende was tagged with the loss despite finishing with 16 saves, including a pair of highlight reel stops early on in the fourth quarter.
“I think there’s been stretches in the last two games that we weren’t at our best and it’s kind of showed in the score. End of the second quarter and start of the third was a time in the game that we weren’t focused on our game plan and we weren’t playing our style of lacrosse that we want to play and that showed on the scoresheet,” commented Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey when asked about the team’s last outing against the Rock.
Although the Knighthawks have almost made two comebacks in each of their last two outings, almost doesn’t cut it as they’ve started out the season 0-3. Despite these close comeback efforts, Carey feels as if the team has yet to put together a performance that they’re truly proud of and that chemistry is becoming less of an excuse as the games unfold.
“We really need to figure each other out. We’re getting to that point where we’re running out of excuses as far as time together and chemistry. Having played three games and the amount of practices we’ve had, we’re at a point where we need to fully understand what our teammates tendencies are.”
Chemistry aside, Carey feels as if there are two major components that the team can focus on, both mentally and physically, in order to turn things around in this weekend’s rematch.
For the Knighthawks general manager, the mental aspect of the game is extremely important when focusing on the overall process. This process lies within every step that his players take on and off the field in order to improve their overall game and this process changes with every new opponent that they face. By focusing on “what’s next”, he feels as if the Knighthawks roster can prepare themselves mentally, which will in turn help contribute to an overall more successful game on the floor.
“We’ve talked about the process ever since training camp – what does that mean? It’s everything that we do on the turf and off the turf, it’s all going to contribute to our overall success or failure. We have to make sure that we’re focusing on what’s next and what the process looks like and that will be different with each opponent,” stated Carey when asked about the mental focus heading into this weekend’s tilt against the Rock.
The Knighthawks have all the key components when putting together a solid roster in the National Lacrosse League – a powerful offense, a fast and smart defense and goaltending that has shown they can come off the bench when needed at any time. Physically, though, Carey feels as if the team needs to be more fundamentally sound and more focused on the little intricacies of the game in order to find that first victory.
“I’d say the fundamentals, that’s the biggest thing that I’ve seen. I don’t think we take away the compete level from our guys, but for us, it’s really focusing on the little intricacies of the game that should come natural to our guys and I feel that they’ve been fighting that a little bit.”
This weekend marks the second of three matchups between Rochester and Toronto this season and the first of two up at Scotiabank Arena. Rochester goes into Saturday night still in search of its first win, a battle between two North Division foes and time to find their chemistry both mentally and physically by focusing first on their opponent at hand.
Following this weekend, the Knighthawks return home to Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross arena on Saturday, Jan. 18 when they host the defending NLL champion Calgary Roughnecks at 7 p.m. for the first and only time during the 2019-20 season.