The Rochester Knighthawks are headed into their first of two weekends this season that they’ll be in action on back-to-back game nights. The weekend will prove to be another tough test for the expansion-era Knighthawks, who on Saturday host the defending National Lacrosse League champion Calgary Roughnecks before traveling to take on the Philadelphia Wings on Sunday.
Both matchups are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and will be the only time the teams face-off against each other this season.
This past Saturday saw a thrilling back-and-forth offensive battle between the Knighthawks and Toronto Rock that came down to the final minute with Rochester ultimately coming up a goal short in a 13-12 loss at Scotiabank Arena.
Although a loss, the team’s fourth straight to begin the season, Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey felt as if the team’s performance this past weekend was one they could finally be proud of.
“That game was finally one that I feel we can take some pride in,” said Carey. “Obviously not the result that we would’ve liked, but Toronto is a good team and a tough one to play against. I really liked how we competed and how there was an answer to the goals that they scored. Overall from all the positions, we had a pretty solid game.”
Some standout names from last Saturday include Holden Cattoni, Shawn Evans and Craig Wende, all of whom had arguably their best performances of the year so far.
Cattoni (5+4) led the offensive charge for the Knighthawks, notching his fourth five-goal game in his professional career while also adding four assists for a career-high nine-point night. Evans matched Cattoni with a nine-point effort (2+7) of his own to become just the sixth player in NLL history to reach 1,200 career points. The two-time NLL MVP factored in on each of Rochester’s first six goals of the night, including scoring off a floor-length pass from Wende.
Along with the names that we’ve been seeing as constants on the scoresheet, Carey feels as if there are a couple unsung heroes that have helped contribute to the scoresheet in different ways up until this point in the season. Some of those names include Phil Caputo, Dan Michel and Curtis Knight, who combined for four goals and three assists this past Saturday night.
“I think there’s some unsung heroes, too, that you’re not going to see that may not get a ton of points per game. The guys that do the little things; they’re just as important,” stated the Knighthawks general manager when talking about how big plays don’t happen if the little things don’t take place first.
Taking last week’s “what’s next” theme and applying it to this weekend may come as a challenge to the Knighthawks with back-to-back games for the first time this season.
First up, the Knighthawks return to Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena this Saturday night to face-off against the Roughnecks. The defending champions have started their title defense going 2-2 with a well-balanced offense that features four different players with at least 14 points or more through the first four games of the season. Defending the crease, it seems as though Calgary has relied solely on Christian Del Bianco, as he’s made all the starts in the net this season and has been with the club since the 2016 campaign. The Roughnecks make their only trip to Rochester coming off an 8-7 setback to Philadelphia, Rochester’s opponent on Sunday.
Speaking of the wings, Philadelphia finished last season with a league-worst 4-14 record, but this year they seem to be bouncing back having won three of their first four games, including am 18-10 victory over Vancouver most recently.
Forward Kevin Crowley paces Philadelphia’s offense in all offensive categories, including goals (9), assists (14) and points (23) while appearing in all four games this season. Crowley, who’s in his second stint with the reincarnated Wings, also leads the team with 53 shots and four power-play assists. Goaltender Zach Higgins has carried much of the workload in the crease, sporting a 3-1 record and ranking 11th among qualified goaltenders with a 10.30 goals-against average and a .796 save percentage, respectively.
Like the Knighthawks, Philadelphia has two games on the docket this weekend, beginning Saturday night on the road against New England before hosting Rochester 24 hours later.
Now although there’s two games to mark off the Knighthawks schedule this weekend, Carey made sure to note that the team’s sole focus starts with Calgary first and foremost.
“It’s hard to really think of just one game going into this weekend. Mentally you have to prepare and make sure that once that game is done Saturday, you’re putting yourself in the mindset for Sunday’s game. Right now, though, our focus is on Calgary.”
Following this weekend, Rochester has 11 days off before game-day comes back around. On Friday, Jan. 31, the Knighthawks will be back to divisional play as they commence a new rivalry with the Buffalo Bandits in the first of three matchups between the two teams this season. The intrastate showdown is slated for a 7 p.m. start time at KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo.