It’s been over a month since the Rochester Knighthawks were last in action after notching a 16-7 over the Albany FireWolves at the Times Union Center. Between a pair of bye weeks, the holiday break and then the postponement of the Knighthawks game against the defending NLL champion Calgary Roughnecks, there hasn’t been much time for Rochester to even get together to practice.
According to Knighthawks transition player Ryland Rees, this long hiatus was good for the rest, but the team needs to be mentally prepared heading into a weekend full of back-to-back game days, especially without barely seeing each other over the last month.
“It’s good and bad in different ways,” said Rees, a 2020 NLL All-Rookie Team selection. “The biggest thing is just being mentally prepared. We had a long break, so it’s weird having over a month between games with the preparation and everyone doing their own thing.”
Now the long wait was good in some respects, one of them most definitely being the fact that Rochester is back to a fully healthy roster. Another being that Rochester will be fresh when they hit the floor on Friday night against the Georgia Swarm.
However, Georgia isn’t the only tough opponent the Knighthawks are taking on this weekend as they’ll face the Philadelphia Wings the very next day on the road. Rees admitted that as all sights are set on Georgia first, the Philadelphia game is still something that everyone has in the back of their minds.
“I think mentally you’re really in a tough spot because you’re really focused on the first game. All our minds are on Georgia right now but in the back of our minds we know we have to take on Philly the next day. It’s a really quick turnaround.”
To start off the season, Georgia has gone 1-3 and they’re currently on a two-game losing streak. However, Rees admitted that you can’t overlook the fact that they have some of the best players in the league on their roster. Rees mentioned how Georgia has forward Lyle Thompson, who leads the league with 18 goals and ranks third with 26 points, or forward Shayne Jackson, who the Knighthawks know will be covering a large part of the floor.
“They obviously have one of the most talented lacrosse players in the world with Lyle Thompson, he’s obviously someone that you always got to have your eyes on.”
Rees then continued to talk about how the Knighthawks scouted Jackson.
“Another big guy is Shayne Jackson. Off the ball, he’s really sneaky and likes to get right on top of the crease. So that was a big point of emphasis to always be aware of where Shayne Jackson is on the floor.”
While the Swarm have several versatile players, Reed admitted a big focus will be on containing Thompson.
When it comes to Saturday’s contest against the Wings, Rees said that Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen told the team to do their research on Philadelphia last week. The Wings have played five games this season, going 3-2 over that span, and are most recently coming off of a one-goal loss to the FireWolves this past Saturday.
Rees mentioned how they’ve got another very talented roster but two of the biggest players to look out for are Wings forwards Kevin Crowley and Ben McIntosh.
“They got a lot of really talented players as well. Kevin Crowley is a real big-bodied guy and Ben McIntosh is a highly skilled inside finisher. They both work really well together, so these are definitely guys that we need to be aware of.”
From this weekend on, the Knighthawks hit the ground running for the rest of the 2021-22 campaign. This weekend’s back-to-back matchups against Georgia and Philadelphia begins a stretch of games almost every weekend for the Knighthawks until the season’s end.
Coming out of an extended break like the one they just encountered, Rees knows it’s imperative the Knighthawks come into the weekend mentally prepared.
“The biggest with the break is just as much preparation as possible. Knowing the team’s tendencies, knowing their offensive threats or where their goalies will be, taking in all of the small things. I think the more preparation we have, the better.”
The Knighthawks return home on Friday, Jan. 21 when they take on the Swarm at 6:30 p.m. at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. Friday’s faceoff against Georgia will be carried live on 107.3 FM The Bull as well as ESPNU as the NLL’s featured game of the week.
After a quick turnaround, the Knighthawks are back in action for the second straight night on Saturday, Jan. 22 when they visit the Philadelphia Wings for an Eastern Conference showdown at Wells Fargo Center. The 7 p.m. matchup will be the first of two scheduled meetings between the two teams this season and will be carried live on 107.3 FM The Bull.