Back on Nov. 30, the Rochester Knighthawks embarked on a brand-new season as a brand-new franchise against the Georgia Swarm at Segar & Sciortino Field The Blue Cross Arena. Excitement and anticipation filled the air with staple names like Shawn Evans and Paul Dawson making their comebacks to the Flower City and big welcomes for newcomers such as Ryland Rees, Cory Highfield and more.
Preseason went better than expected and there was a buzz around the league about the caliber of offense that Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey had put together before taking the floor when it counted that November night. Unfortunately, it would take up until halftime of that first matchup to realize just how hard it’s truly going to be to contend with teams, such as Georgia, when trying to build chemistry from the ground up.
“It was a little bit of a shock factor for all of us. We went up against a very talented team that a majority of those players have been together for a long time and they kind of seemed to be in midseason form,” commented Carey when asked what his overall impressions were on the inaugural game against the Swarm.
The thing is, he’s not wrong. Georgia is a team that has a history carried over from their prior home of Minnesota. Throughout the 15 years that this franchise has been established, they’ve missed playoffs only four times and have two of the most lethal forwards on their offense in Miles and Lyle Thompson. This first game was a true test as to how the new Knighthawks squad is going to bounce back in the weeks to come with three divisional games on the horizon.
Since opening night of the National Lacrosse League season, Rochester has practiced three times in order to reset and refocus for the road ahead. These practices have given the rookies an opportunity to watch themselves and the team as a whole and have allowed the team to make the adjustments needed in order to succeed in the weeks to come.
Along with the practices, the Knighthawks have also made a major roster move in signing veteran defenseman Darryl Robertson to a one-year contract. When you look at the Knighthawks active roster on opening night, they had six rookies on defense with the only veteran presence on that side of the floor coming from transition players. Robertson spent all last season here in Rochester with the previous Knighthawks franchise, combining for 12 points (2+10) and collecting 55 loose balls in his 15 games played.
Carey noted how the addition of Robertson can be beneficial since he’ll join an elite defensive corps which include the likes of Dawson, Dylan Evans and Jay Thorimbert that has previous NLL experience. All but one also has experience playing under head coach Mike Hasen as part of the previous organization
“It’s important and he’s got a bunch of games under his belt from last season. Not only has he played in the league, but he played with Mike Hasen, so he’s familiar with what his expectations are as a coach. Hasen speaks highly of him and he knows that he’s a guy that’s going to help us.”
Looking ahead to this Saturday night at 6:00 p.m., the Knighthawks will finally be back in game action against the newly established Halifax Thunderbirds up in Nova Scotia at the Scotiabank Centre. Led by first-year head coach and former Knighthawk Mike Accursi, the Thunderbirds began their 2019-20 campaign on a high note by defeating the expansion New York Riptide 12-4 back on Dec. 7. Although considered a new team in the NLL, the Halifax organization is the former Rochester franchise with 16 of their 18 opening day players having ties to the previous Knighthawks organization.
With so many athletes on the Halifax roster having played together previously, Carey took the time to mention just how tough it will be for the Knighthawks to face-off against another opponent with a ton of team chemistry.
“The difficult thing about playing against these teams that have the chemistry is that they’ve played together for a while now. The guys that were leading the success last year are with their team still. They’ve got a lot of weapons offensively and they’ve got a couple of the best defenders in the league. We’re going to have our hands full and it’s going to be a difficult game for us.”
The key to the Knighthawks success this upcoming weekend against their North Division foe will be to dissect their opponents first game of the year as much as possible before hitting the floor. No matter what, though, Carey feels that as long as the Knighthawks go out to compete, work hard and be better than they were against Georgia, his roster should have no issue coming out with a win as long as they go in fully mentally prepared for the matchup.
Following this weekend, the Knighthawks return to the Flower City on Saturday, Dec. 28 when they host the Toronto Rock in the front end of a home-and-home series at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. Game time is slated for a 7:00 p.m. start and will be carried live on 107.3 FM The Bull as well as B/R Live. Fans can stay up to date all season long with the latest Knighthawks news, stories and notes at www.rochesterknighthawks.com.