As the Rochester Knighthawks season begins to creep closer, the end of the 2021 Premier Lacrosse League season is near with the championship game coming up this Sunday. For the third-straight year, the Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club is headed into the final, while it’s the second-straight season that they’ll be taking on the Chaos Lacrosse Club, which features one of our very own Knighthawks in rookie forward Ryan Smith.
Let’s rewind back a little and refresh your memory on who exactly Smith is and why it’s so important that he’s getting a little pro experience before heading into his first season in the Flower City.
Smith was selected by Rochester third overall in the 2020 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft and is the most decorated player in history to come out of Robert Morris University. As a fifth-year graduate student in 2021, Smith set career-highs with 48 goals and 71 points, while also establishing single-season records for points (71), points-per-game (5.46) and goals-per-game (3.69). More impressively, Smith recorded hat tricks in 11 of his 13 appearances this past season and registered multiple-assist outings on seven different occasions.
And that’s all just in his fifth season at Robert Morris. Let’s not overlook his cumulative accolades that include scoring 142 goals and totaling 217 points in 69 career games, all of which are most in program history. He also ranks second all-time in career points-per-game (3.14) and games started (59) and third in goals-per-game (2.06) and assists (75).
It just so happens that in early June Knighthawks General Manager and Vice President of Lacrosse Operations Dan Carey finally made it official and announced that the team had agreed to terms on a two-year deal with Smith heading into the 2021-22 season.
If we couldn’t look forward to Smith being a part of the squad more than we already are, he’s got a solid regular season stat line when we look at his summer in the PLL. After missing the first couple contests of the year due to some visa complications, Smith has appeared in five games, totaling nine points on seven one-point goals and two assists, while cultivating a 54% shot percentage.
Smith didn’t play in an actual game for about seven weeks when he finally made his PLL debut back on June 26 against the Redwoods, however, he mentioned that his transition from the college field game to the pro field game was a great starting place for his pro career to take off.
“It was a good transition and it’s fun to play on the offense with the Chaos,” said Smith. “It’s honestly kind of a more reserved box lacrosse kind of play on the offense, so it’s been a blast.”
With the crossover in players from the PLL to the NLL, Smith has been able to get familiar competing against some NLL opponents at the pro level and he also had the chance to play with veteran defenseman and incoming Knighthawks teammate Dan Coates during his debut. Although it was just a one-game affair, the impression that Coates left on Smith made the rookie eager to take on the season in Rochester.
“There’s a couple of Knighthawks that play in the PLL. At least having one familiar face when I walk into training camp will be nice,” Smith said.
Coates is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever seen,” added Smith. “In my first practice we were just doing walk-throughs and they were supposed to be just playing shadow defense and he was just out there slashing guys. He’s just an ultra-competitor.”
After not appearing in a box lacrosse game for almost two years, it’ll be fun to see Smith take the floor when he gets the chance, but for now his sole focus is on winning that championship matchup come Sunday afternoon. So far Smith has appeared in both the Chaos’ playoff matchups, notching one point on one one-point marker.
When asked what gives the Chaos a leg up on the Whipsnakes come Sunday afternoon, Smith’s answer was as simple as needing each and every one of his teammates out there to pull off a victory.
“I just think how close we are as a team. We always talk about how we can rely on each other when we get into tough spots and dealing with adversity. When you look around, we need all of us to win.”
The Chaos take on the Whipsnakes in the PLL Championship this Sunday afternoon at 12 p.m. at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. The championship matchup can be found on NBC Sports Network.