In the first week of action in the National Lacrosse League, the Rochester Knighthawks fought their way to a 13-12 overtime win over the New York Riptide last Saturday night at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
If this first game of the 2021-22 campaign showed the Knighthawks anything, it was that this team is much different than their first year together. Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey gave kudos to New York for sticking it out and making it a tough battle until the end, however, he commends his team for stepping up and coming in clutch.
“There is a difference from this year’s team to year one. These were the games we lost in year one. We had a couple of big stops, a couple of big saves and then a clutch goal in overtime that sealed the win for us.”
Reigning Offensive Player of the Year Holden Cattoni led the Knighthawks with three goals and seven points while forward Shawn Evans scored twice and added five assists for seven points on the night. Rookie forward Charlie Bertrand made his NLL debut, netting a pair of goals and forward Thomas Hoggarth came up clutch with a hat trick on the night and the game-winner in overtime. Forward Turner Evans and transition players Ryland Rees and Cory Highfield completed the scoring for Rochester, while goaltender Evan Kirk made his Knighthawks debut as he made 43 saves faced to pick up the victory.
“Holden has got one of the best shots, that I would consider, in the entire league – hard, heavy and accurate. What has given him success throughout training camp and that first game is he’s able to shoot on the run, keeps moving his feet and he’s doing a lot of the little things that are going to help him have success this year if he continues to do them,” commented Carey when asked what makes Cattoni able to pick up right where he left off from the 2019-20 campaign.
Hoggarth didn’t appear in a game with the Knighthawks in their inaugural season due to injury, so Saturday was his first sporting a Rochester jersey. As Hoggarth delivered the game-winner in overtime, Carey mentioned how it was no surprise and they expect the Knighthawks forward to come up in big moments throughout the course of the season.
“I think you can look at our offense as a whole and Thomas Hoggarth is a guy that’s going to have these big games for us, and we expect that from him.”
Carey then went on to add, “He’s just a talented player. He’s big, he’s got very good hands inside, he can pass the ball, and a lot of the times, whether he’s open or not, he’s going to catch it and come up with it to get a good shot off.”
Heading into the second week of NLL action, the Knighthawks are taking on the Buffalo Bandits in their 2021-22 Home Opener Saturday night. Buffalo opened its season with a bang, scoring the most goals in their first game out with 16 and having the highest goal differential across the league in their game against the Calgary Roughnecks last weekend, so Carey knows the Knighthawks will have their hands full.
“If you look around the league, I think they’re probably the most complete team. They’re going to give teams a really difficult time this year. We talk about the parody, this is one team that may have an advantage with the players on their team. It will be a true test to get them in our second game to kind of see where we are.”
Although it’s a small sample size, the Bandits have a few league leaders in points, saves, goals and more. Buffalo currently has seven-time NLL goaltender of the year Matt Vinc leading the league with 49 saves, along with former NLL MVP in forward Dhane Smith leading the league with his nine points in one game and his four goals tied for second.
That’s not the only firepower that the Bandits sport, though, as there are six players that had six or more points in last week’s contest against the Roughnecks along with six different goal scorers. The Knighthawks will have their hands full, however, and it’s the perfect game to see exactly where they’re at.
Rochester returns home for the first time in over 600 days this Saturday, Dec. 11 as they host the Bandits for the first time in franchise history in the team’s 2021-22 Home Opener at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will be the first of three scheduled meetings between the intrastate rivals this season and will be carried live on 107.3 FM The Bull as well as ESPN+.