There were two things Parker Pipher wanted to accomplish in his lacrosse career: hear his name called in the National Lacrosse League Entry Draft and be fortunate enough to play in his first professional game.
Little did he know, however, that he would accomplish both within the same year and with the same organization.
“Getting drafted alone was something that’s always been a dream, but being able to play my first pro game in my first year is still a little surreal and hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” said Pipher, whose lifeline dream became a reality this past weekend in Las Vegas.
Pipher was one of six selections made by the Rochester Knighthawks in this past year’s Entry Draft and the lone pick of the third round at 45th overall.
Pipher, who signed a two-year contract with the Knighthawks in September 2022, spent the first 16 weeks of his rookie season biding his time and honing his craft on the team’s practice squad.
Weeks of patience and hard work finally paid off, as it tends to do for those who wait long enough, as Pipher finally received the long-awaited call from Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey that he was being moved to the active roster.
First NLL goal AND second NLL goal all in his NLL debut!
What a game for Parker Pipher 👏 pic.twitter.com/f8zaHWuHzV
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) March 27, 2023
Now the reassignment to the active roster doesn’t always guarantee a lineup spot, however, an unforeseen injury to veteran forward Curtis Knight required the need for a right-handed shot to fill the void.
Pipher’s opportunity had finally arrived, and while Saturday’s matchup in Las Vegas unfortunately didn’t go in Rochester’s favor, the Oshawa, Ontario, native certainly did not disappoint.
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound forward scored back-to-back goals in the second quarter, the second of which brought the Knighthawks within a goal, and later added an assist to cap an impressive three-point night in his National Lacrosse League debut.
“I think it went pretty well,” said Pipher looking back on his pro debut. I made a few mistakes and we didn’t come out with the win, but with it being my first game, it was good overall.”
“It was truly great to see,” said Carey when asked him impression of Pipher’s performance in the 12-7 loss to the Desert Dogs in the inaugural meeting between the two teams Saturday at Michelob ULTRA Arena. “For a younger kid that has really been patient, has been at every practice and has been nothing but positive, it was great to see that he was able to have success in his first game.”
Not only that, Pipher fit in well within the team’s structure and played with confidence, which became more and more evident as the game went on.
FIRST NLL GOAL FOR PARKER PIPHER 🚨 pic.twitter.com/tDtcPA9U7u
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) March 26, 2023
“He was confident out there and he was buzzing around. I thought he played with a lot of energy and for someone that hasn’t played a National Lacrosse League game to come in at game 14 isn’t always easy. The comfort level of playing at this level is something he didn’t have. It’s certainly not an easy situation for him or anyone to come into, but he did a great job for us.”
With Pipher getting his first game out of the way, half of the Knighthawks’ 2022 Draft class have now made their professional debuts. He joins fellow forwards Austin Hasen and Thomas Vela, taken in the first and seconds rounds, respectively, to do so.
“I was mostly excited, a little nervous obviously, but mostly eager to get the first game out of the way,” said Pipher.
When he’s not with the Knighthawks, Pipher is dominating the Arena Lacrosse League. Through 14 games with the Toronto Monarchs, he ranks second in the league in assists (67) and points (105) and fourth in goals (38). He trails only John St. John of the Oshawa Outlaws in scoring and is one of only two players in the league to reach the 100-point mark.
Despite Pipher’s relatively smaller stature, Carey thought he acclimated well to the overall pace and physicality of the game given his time on the Knighthawks practice squad all season. That time proved to be invaluable leading up to his first NLL experience, which Carey noted has many differences than what he become accustomed to while in the ALL.
“With his size, we weren’t sure how well he would handle it, but he stepped up to the challenge and didn’t shy away from it either,” said Carey. “He’s always been that size, but the games he’s been playing, and those especially in the Arena Lacrosse League, they’re much different in the sense that the athletes in the NLL are much bigger and stronger compared to what he’s been playing against. At the same time, though, he’s been at our practices and has played against NLL defensemen for the last four months. He’s comfortable with it and it showed.”
Parker Pipher leads the guys onto the floor for warm-ups.
He is expected to make his pro debut tonight in Vegas! pic.twitter.com/sm4LJtpwP1
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) March 26, 2023
Based on his performance this past Saturday in Las Vegas, Pipher is just scratching the surface of what he can bring when he’s in the lineup. Only time will tell when he gets the opportunity again, but we do know that he will be ready when the time comes.
When asked what expectations he has for himself for the remainder of the season, Pipher said, “I try not to set expectations for myself and just continue doing what I have been all season; show up, put the work in and just know good things will come.”
“He’s got a lot more to give and he showed that he’s more than capable of playing in this league,: said Carey. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him, and as an organization, we’re really excited about that.”