The Rochester Knighthawks (10-7) are playoff bound for the first time in franchise history after getting back in the win column Saturday against Georgia. With one game left in the regular season, the Knighthawks are guaranteed at least a fourth-place finish or better in the National Lacrosse League’s Eastern Conference standings.
Plus, Connor Fields continues to make history.
We cover all that, and more, in this week’s edition of Hawk Talk with Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey.
WEEK 21 RECAP
The Knighthawks outscored the Georgia Swarm 6-2 over the final 16 minutes of regulation on their way to a 12-10 win Saturday at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. By picking up their 10th win of the season, the Knighthawks officially secured a berth in the NLL playoffs for the first time in franchise history and snapped a season-long four-game winless streak in the process.
Connor Fields paced the Knighthawks offense, factoring in on five of Rochester’s 12 goals. The forward scored a pair of goals to go with three assists to lead the team in scoring for the 14th time in his last 16 games. Fields became just the second American-born player in league history to score 50 goals in a season, joining Roy Colsey who reached the mark in 2001.
Additionally, by adding a team-high 15 loose ball recoveries, he’s the first player since Athan Iannucci in 2008 to record more than 100 points and 130 loose ball recoveries in the same reason. The only other player in NLL history to reach both those marks in a single season was John Tavares.
Fields also tallied his 16th consecutive multi-goal game and has recorded at least one point in 46 of his 48 games of his NLL career, dating back to his rookie season in 2019-20.
Second goal of the night 🤝 50th goal of the season.
Connor Fields ties it up.
— NLL (@NLL) April 23, 2023
Matt Gilray (2+2), Ryan Smith (1+3) and Austin Hasen (0+4) all notched four points each while Turner Evans and Thomas Hoggarth each scored twice for a multi-goal outing. Curtis Knight, Holden Cattoni and Paul Dawson each added one goal while Cattoni and Ethan Schott were credited with one assist to round out the scoring.
Knighthawks netminder Rylan Hartley (10-7) made his 17th consecutive start between the pipes, stopping 46 shots to earn the win. Hartley had double digits in saves in each quarter, including 14 in the third frame.
PLAYOFF BOUND HAWKS
Rochester officially punched its ticket into the 2023 National Lacrosse League Playoffs, marking the first team in franchise history that the Knighthawks advanced to the postseason. The Knighthawks, who are guaranteed at least a fourth-place or better in the NLL’s Eastern Conference standings, clinched by way of a 12-10 home win over the Georgia Swarm on Saturday.
Entering the contest against Georgia, the Knighthawks suffered four consecutive defeats in their last four games.
We’ve secured our spot in the playoffs!
Stay in the know and get all the playoff updates ⬇️
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) April 25, 2023
“It was a tremendous feeling,” said Carey when talking about the emotions from Saturday’s playoff-clinching win. “Knowing the work that our guys, staff, and everyone else involved had put in this year and what it took to get here, making the playoffs was all part of what we wanted to accomplish at the start of the year when we when we set out our goals.”
“It was great to check that box as we look forward to the postseason.”
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) April 23, 2023
This season, when the Knighthawks had at least one week off between games they responded with a win the following week and outscored their opponents 40-29 with wins over Panther City, New York and Georgia.
LOOKING TO LOCK UP THIRD PLACE
Currently, the Knighthawks sit in third place of the Eastern Conference standings with a 10-7 record. The Halifax Thunderbirds, who are 9-8, are in fourth. Should the Thunderbirds lose at Georgia Saturday, Rochester will remain in third and face the Toronto Rock on May 5, regardless of what happens between the Knighthawks and Wings.
If the ‘Hawks were to be defeated by Philadelphia and Halifax wins, the final seedings for the playoffs could be determined by the final scores of Saturday’s games and Rochester could face the Buffalo Bandits.
The Knighthawks split the season-series against both Toronto and Buffalo, with the home team emerging victorious each time.
“Those are two very good teams,” said Carey of Buffalo and Toronto. “They’re going to be very difficult teams to play against, especially in the playoffs. They have playoff experience. They are veteran teams.”
“For our younger group of players, we do have some veteran guys that have won championships, that have been there. Our coaching staff as well. But it’s going to be a fun, exciting time for us as a young team to go against these teams that that are built for the playoffs.”
SWEET GEORGIA, SWEPT GEORGIA
With the Knighthawks picking up a 12-10 win against Georgia, Rochester won all three games of the head-to-head series, which included a pair road victories against the Swarm inside Gas South Arena.
Rochester outscored Georgia 47-39 in its three victories.
Fields led all Knighthawks with 25 points on 11 goals and 14 assists while Smith (16), Cattoni (15), Hoggarth (15), and Knight (11) all finished the season-series with double digits in points.
Cattoni tallied a hat trick in two of the three games versus the Swarm whereas Hoggarth had a multi-goal outing in each contest. Austin Hasen (2+6) turned in eight points as did Gilray (3+5).
Hartley drew the start in the goal crease in each of the three contests and made 133 saves out of the 172 shots he faced. Riley Hutchcraft appeared in three minutes, stopping both shots he faced.
SCOUTING THE WINGS
Philadelphia, playing its third straight game on the road, comes into the matchup having won two of its last three games, which includes a 14-13 overtime victory over Rochester on April 2 at Wells Fargo Center. The Wings, who enter Saturday’s season-finale with an 8-9 mark, have been eliminated from playoff contention despite producing a pair of overtime wins versus the Knighthawks.
Philadelphia brought in some significant offensive reinforcements this season beginning with the off-season addition of perennial goal-scorer Joe Resetarits followed by the midseason acquisition of Mitch Jones by way of a trade from Vancouver.
The duo enters the weekend having combined for 80 goals, 131 assists and 221 points while both are among the 11 different players to surpass the 100-point mark this season. Jones ranks second in the league with a team-high and personal-best 77 assists while Resetarits is tied for eighth in the NLL with a career-high 64.
Resetarits spent five seasons with the previous Knighthawks franchise from 2015-19, during which he recorded 279 points over 78 career games. He capped off his final full season in 2017-18 in historic fashion, establishing then career-highs in goals (37), assists (63) and points (100), becoming the first American-born player to log a 100-point season in league history.
Veteran Zach Higgins has handled most of the goaltending duties this season for the Wings. He boasts an 8-7 record and is fourth in the NLL with 681 saves. Angus Goodleaf (0-2) has also seen some time in the crease, making 85 saves in 114 minutes.
FAN APPRECIATION KNIGHT SET FOR SATURDAY
The Knighthawks are hosting Fan Appreciation Knight, presented by Zweigle’s, on Saturday, April 29 when they host the Philadelphia Wings in their 2022-23 regular-season finale at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena.
As a way of thanking Knighthawks fans for the tremendous support they have once again shown the team this season, the team will be giving away great prizes throughout the night beginning with a 2022-23 team photo giveaway.
Our final regular season game of the season…
Join us as we celebrate you with our Fan Appreciation Knight, presented by @zweigleshots, this Saturday!
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) April 25, 2023
Prior to the game, the team will unveil its 2022-23 Team Awards, presented by the IDE Family of Dealerships, honoring the top individual performances and achievements from this season.
New for this season, the Knighthawks are introducing two additional team awards as voted on by the fans, including the Unsung Hero and Chopper’s Community Champ. The Unsung Hero Award will honor the player that exhibits courage, enthusiasm, and love for the game of lacrosse while the Community Champ will recognize the player deemed to have contributed the most humanitarian service to the Rochester community during the course of the 2022-23 season.
The playoff-bound Knighthawks will close out their regular season on Saturday, Apr. 29 when they host the Philadelphia Wings for the third and final meeting of the season. The 7:00 p.m. face-off at Segar Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+. The contest can also be viewed live locally on CW Rochester.