The Rochester Knighthawks’ third season in the National Lacrosse League kicks off this weekend and there’s a lot to be excited about. Heading into week one, we sat down with Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey to get the scoop on who we should keep our eye on this season, expectations for the team and more.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Carey…
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE 2022-23 CAMPAIGN
“We are excited about this group,” said Carey when asked what his expectations were for the Knighthawks this season. “We still have to be cautious of our expectations and, internally, we expect a lot. I think we kind of have to see where we are after the first few games.”
The thing is, Carey doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself or the team for that matter. Just like last year, the Knighthawks are faced with a few injuries to begin the season, which means that guys are going to have to step in and step up sooner rather than later.
“We dealt with some injuries last year and it looks like this year we’re going to start the season with some injuries as well. So, it gives opportunities for guys to step in and play a role that they might not have played, or had the opportunity to play, if we were fully healthy.”
“It’s not a concern of ours. It’s something that we have to deal with and at some point, we’re going to get through all those injuries and have our full lineup back.”
Despite the injuries, expectations are still high as Carey knows just how competitive the Knighthawks are looking to be this season.
“Expectations are high. We’re a very competitive group and it shows in some of the games that we may be losing, and we see that fight that we have in us. It shows that guys really care, so we are excited. Our expectations are high, but we also have to be cautious of that and kind of work through each game.”
NEWCOMERS TO BE EXCITED ABOUT
Free agency and the draft opened a lot of opportunity for the Knighthawks and Carey delivered with some of the moves he made.
“We traded for Connor Fields. I think he’s a lot different than what we have and a very dynamic player. He’s got a lot of great qualities about him and he’s excited to be here,” started Carey when asked who the fans can be excited about going into the 2022-23 campaign.
Fields was acquired by Rochester along with goaltender Riley Hutchcraft and the first overall pick in the 2022 NLL Entry Draft from the Las Vegas Desert Dogs during the 2022 Expansion Draft. This acquisition didn’t disappoint Knighthawks fans this past summer.
In 32 career NLL games between the Buffalo Bandits and the San Diego Seals, Fields has totaled 116 points on 52 goals and 64 assists while racking up 178 loose ball recoveries after being selected in the first round (10th overall) by the Seals in the 2018 NLL Entry Draft.
Another big signing for Rochester during free agency was that of veteran defenseman Brad Gillies.
“We signed Brad Gillies as a free agent in the off season as well and I know he’s going to be a great veteran presence and in transition play for us,” continued Carey when discussing the off-season acquisitions.
Gillies just completed his sixth pro season in 2021-22 with the Halifax Thunderbirds, scoring four goals and adding five assists for nine points in 17 games. The veteran also notched one goal in one playoff contest for the Thunderbirds, who finished third in the NLL’s East Division.
A native of Oakville, Ontario, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound defenseman has totaled 64 points on 28 goals and 26 assists and 350 loose ball recoveries in 87 career NLL games.
Additionally, there’s a lot of newcomers to be excited about this season as well like 2022 NLL Draft picks in forwards Austin Hasen and Thomas Vela.
“There’s a lot of other new faces that are going to get an opportunity to play for us,” said Carey when continuing about new faces on the Rochester roster. “Austin Hasen, who we drafted in the first round this year, and then Thomas Vela, who was our second-round pick. So, those two guys offensively, they’re going to get an opportunity to see some minutes this year and we’re excited to see them.”
In order to acquire Hasen, the son of Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen, with the 18th overall in the first round of the 2022 NLL Draft, Carey first had to agree to part ways with goaltender Joel Watson and Rochester’s second-round pick in the 2024 NLL Entry Draft, both of which went to the Desert Dogs. In return, the Knighthawks received the 18thpick and subsequently used it to select Hasen at 18th overall to conclude their picks in the opening round.
Vela was acquired 25th overall in the 2022 NLL Draft by Rochester.
A native of Burnaby, British Columbia, Vela split the 2022 season at the junior and senior level with the Burnaby Lakers as well as brief stints with both the Langley Thunder and New Westminster Salmonbellies. For his efforts, Vela was named co-winner of the Bob Reid Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement on the floor and was selected to the 2022 BCJALL All-Star Team.
SETTING A GAME PLAN FOR WEEK ONE IN THE NLL
“We have to have that next man up mentality,” commented Carey when asked how to set a game plan for week one against the Georgia Swarm.
The last time the Knighthawks and Swarm met was Mar. 4 of last season and it ended in a 17-16 overtime loss for Rochester. Georgia went on to outshoot Rochester 57-47 while winning 20-of-36 faceoffs.
Once again, Georgia will be returning to action with forward Lyle Thompson leading the way while adding newcomers like forwards Andrew Kew and Ryan Lanchbury to the mix.
“There’s a lot of excitement, right? We have a great opportunity ahead of us to start the season off right. I think this is one of those opportunities that we have to really focus on the moment and making sure that we are providing ourselves with the best opportunity to win. Whoever is in the lineup has to be ready to go out and perform.”
THE ROAD AHEAD
This week kicks off the action for the Knighthawks as they embark on their third season in the NLL. The Knighthawks take on the Swarm this Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. at Gas South Arena as part of the league’s Face-Off Weekend before returning home to host the Toronto Rock on Opening Knight on Saturday, Dec. 10 at Segar & Sciortino Field.
All 18 Knighthawks game this season will once again be available on Big 107.3 and ESPN+.