Connor Fields (4+4) and Holden Cattoni (3+4) combined for 15 points as the Rochester Knighthawks (7-2) survived a late fourth-quarter push by the Halifax Thunderbirds (4-5) and held on for a 16-14 win Saturday at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena.
By getting back in the win column, the Knighthawks, who remain unbeaten in Rochester this season (4-0), split the two-game series with Halifax. Additionally, the win, which snapped a two-game skid, was the Knighthawks’ first in franchise history over the Thunderbirds.
Fields, who has posted a hat trick in seven of his eight games this season. The forward leads the NLL in goals and is now fourth in overall scoring with 54 points, 13 shy from matching his previous career-high of 67 he set last season with Buffalo.
Rookie Thomas Vela (2+0) and Ryan Smith (2+1) each registered two goals each while Curtis Knight (1+3), Turner Evans (0+3), Thomas Hoggarth (1+2) and Paul Dawson (0+2) all produced multi-assist outings. Ryland Rees (1+1), Matt Gilray (1+1), Brad Gillies (1+0) and Austin Hasen (0+1) all found the scoresheet, respectively.
Goaltender Rylan Hartley (7-2) earned his seventh win of the season as he made his ninth straight appearance. The netminder stopped finished with 40 saves, which included 17 in the third quarter.
Austin Shanks (2+5) led the Halifax offense as he posted seven points while Eric Fannell (3+2), Randy Staats (2+2) Cody Jamieson (2+1) and Johnny Pearson (2+0) all recorded multi-goal efforts. Ryan Benesch (1+3) and Chris Boushy (1+1) both scored one goal each while Wake:Riat Bowhunter, Luc Magnan, and Ryan Terefenko all chipped in an assist.
Goaltenders Warren Hill (3+4) and Drew Hutchinson (1+1) split time in the crease for Halifax. Hill made 32 saves in the first 49 minutes of the contest before being replaced by Hutchison, who stopped five of the seven shots he faced, for the final 11 minutes of regulation.
Entering the final 15 minutes of the contest holding a 13-8 lead, the Knighthawks countered Fannell’s hat trick goal with three straight goals to extend its cushion to 16-9.
Cattoni’s goal from Fields 4:10 into the quarter chased Hill from the goal crease before Gilray and Fields lit the lamp to make it a seven-goal advantage with under six minutes remaining.
Halifax, however, refused to give in worked some late game magic to pull within two with 32 seconds remaining in regulation. Following their 14th goal of the contest and winning the ensuing face-off, the Thunderbirds quickly called a timeout.
Fields ➡️ Smith ➡️ IN
— NLL (@NLL) February 12, 2023
After the pause in action, Hartley absorbed a grade-A chance to preserve the two-goal victory.
Rochester fell behind early for the second straight game, as Fannell opened the scoring 3:03 into the contest to put Halifax up 1-0. After posting up to the right of Hartley and surveying the landscape, Fannell found a seam inside the far post for his 16th goal of the season.
The Knighthawks quickly turned the one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead courtesy of a three-goal run that began with a power-play goal from Smith at 6:27. The Knighthawks forward, who had five power-play goals coming into tonight, picked the upper corner with a long range shot through traffic that sailed over the left shoulder of Hill. Fields and Cattoni earned the assists on Smith’s 18th goal of the season and league-leading sixth on the man-advantage.
Fields followed up just 1:05 later, beating Hill from the opposite side of the floor to give Rochester a 2-1 lead.
Vela, playing in just his second game of the season, capped the three-goal run for Rochester later in the frame. With the Knighthawks shorthanded, Rees found a wide-open Vela, who somehow eluded coverage deep in the Halifax zone. The rookie forward patiently outwaited the netminder and converted from atop the crease for his first professional goal.
The teams traded goals twice to make it a 5-3 Rochester advantage at the 5:46 mark of the second quarter.
Holden Cattoni snags the ball and buries it! pic.twitter.com/ZYn4eQhQle
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) February 12, 2023
The two teams combined for nine goals in the second quarter, beginning with Knight restoring Rochester’s two-goal lead just 1:59 in. Staats, who factored in on all three Halifax goals in the frame, scored in transition at 10:01 and then again at 7:39 before setting up Benesch at 6:14.
Cattoni scored in-between at 9:14 after capitalizing on a misplay by Hill and snapping home his first of three on the night while the Halifax netminder was caught out of position.
Tempers began to flare later in the frame, resulting in extended power-play time for Rochester and the Knighthawks would capitalize, going on a four-goal run entering halftime.
Rees scored in transition following a spectacular individual effort that saw him nearly run the length of the floor before beating Hill for is third of the year. Vela and Fields each netted their second goals of the night a minute apart, with Fields’ tally coming on the power-play, and Cattoni completed the run with his second of the quarter from Smith and Knight to send the Knighthawks into the half with a 9-5 lead.
Halifax came out of the break with back-to-back goals to cut the deficit in half, beginning with Hill airmailing a floor-length pass to a wide-open Shanks before Pearson recorded his first of the year to bring the Thunderbirds within a pair.
Rochester, however, responded with a pair of its own with Fields completing the hat trick at 11:09, marking his seventh three-goal outing in eight games this season, while Hoggarth connected on a feed from Evans to put the Knighthawks up 11-7 and restoring the team’s four-goal lead.
Fannell notched his second of the contest for Halifax at 8:09, but Rochester didn’t let up as Smith and Gillies went back-to-back to give the Knighthawks their largest lead of the night, 13-8.
The Thunderbirds outscored the Knighthawks 6-3 in the final 15 minutes of play before withstanding a late push from the Thunderbirds and holding on for their fourth straight win at home.
Following a bye week next week, the Knighthawks resume their 2022-23 campaign on Saturday, Feb. 25 when they host the New York Riptide at 7 p.m. at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The matchup will be the second and final meeting between the intrastate rivals this season and will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.