The Rochester Knighthawks are coming off a bye week. Again.
For just the third time in five weeks, the 3-2 ‘Hawks take the floor, this time against the Halifax Thunderbirds (2-3). It’s a team Rochester head coach Mike Hasen is bracing his group for.
While the proximity between Buffalo and Rochester made for an intense bout within their storied rivalry, the longtime bench boss has ensured his team that Halifax will be just as difficult.
“I find they’re one of the most physical groups in this league,” said Hasen. “We have to be equally as physical in trying to deny the stuff they do well. We’ll have our hands full.”
After beginning the season 3-0, Rochester has consecutive losses in games to San Diego and Buffalo. Rochester will aim to avoid falling to .500 on the year.
“Our mistakes ended up in the back of our net for the most part (in the last two games). We were running well in our first few games and our deficiencies didn’t really bite us as bad as it has the last couple games. Playing against Buffalo and San Diego, those are teams that are supposed to be playing in June. They’re legit contenders. When we made our mistakes, they were really good to capitalize.”
It’s a growing group. Collectively, the Knighthawks have cautioned praise with perspective. Yes, they were winning games, but they also understood that this team has several young players on its roster. Those players will go through learning pains. Perhaps that is what’s happening of late. Add the absence of players due to injury or being physically unable to play, namely team captain Dan Coates, and you’ve got key cogs missing from the machine.
“We’re missing key contributors for us,” Hasen said. “Coates logs a lot of minutes. He’s a guy that keeps everybody on the same page and he’s very vocal, so it’s up to us to be more vocal without him.”
“We just need to capitalize on a few things that a couple of teams have managed to do so far this season. They’re (Halifax) big and physical. They are a very unselfish group that continues to find that next open guy. We need to make sure that we’re communicating. We need to be careful that we don’t poke the bear too much, but we need to play to our strengths and match their physicality.”
While the Knighthawks are prepping for the likes of Clarke Petterson, Cody Jamieson and company on the Thunderbirds, the team is keeping the focus internal, making it a point to draw the attention to themselves and what they need to do, regardless of what the opposition attempts.
“We’re not playing our best. While Buffalo is Buffalo, I think we left a little too much on the table for them to capitalize on. I think we’re playing okay, but there’s tons of room for improvement internally that we’re trying to get to. We try to focus on us each week and come to the building feeling confident that we’re going to do what we want to do and execute. Those are those little hitches we talk about in order to match what their strengths are, but at the end of the day we need to be ourselves. If at the end of 60 minutes, we’re at our best, then hopefully we can come away with the win.”