The Rochester Knighthawks remain the only undefeated team in the National Lacrosse League through their first five games of the 2022-23 campaign. And, yes, as much as this is because of the Knighthawks offensive efforts, we can also give credit (where credit is due) to the defensive unit that Rochester has in place.
Through five games, the defense has allowed just 48 goals, which averages out to be about 9.6 goals allowed per game. Now, the Knighthawks have had one game where they’ve given up 13 markers, which was on Dec. 17 against the Albany FireWolves, however, every other game during the Knighthawks 2022-23 campaign, Rochester has held its opponents to 11 or fewer goals.
Even more impressively, the Knighthawks have held their opponents to less than 10 goals in three of their last four games.
“Honestly, I think we are being successful because we are just limiting teams to the shot they may necessarily want to take and the shots that we are comfortable giving up,” stated Knighthawks captain Paul Dawson when asked why he feels the defensive unit is so solid currently.
Second-year Knighthawk Tyler Halls agreed by saying that the team just has a lot of trust in one another right now.
“Our defense is so good right now because we are just trusting one another, sticking to our principles and all buying into the same game plan. “To me, we’re all trusting one another as a whole team – starting from goaltending all the way to the offense and you can just see the confidence level is up.”
Halls isn’t wrong about the goaltending being a massive part of the defensive production this season.
Knighthawks netminder Rylan Hartley is a perfect 5-0 between the pipes this season. His five wins lead the league while his 198 saves rank fourth among all goaltenders thus far.
And, obviously, Hartley didn’t disappoint his teammates on Sunday against the New York Riptide as he once again was brilliant in the crease, making 33 saves in his fifth straight start of the campaign. The netminder went on to stop 14 of the 16 shots he faced in the third quarter and has now held the opposition to fewer than 10 goals in three of his last four appearances.
“Obviously, the way ‘Ralphy’ (Hartley) is playing also makes it easier to play with confidence and he’s making us look good when we do break down because he’s making a ton of saves and bailing us out,” continued Dawson when talking about how the team’s defensive efforts aren’t possible without Hartley holding it down in the crease.
It just so happens the Knighthawks will have to continue to hold it down on the defensive side of the game heading into this weekend in a highly anticipated matchup against the intrastate rival Buffalo Bandits on Friday.
Buffalo, which advanced to the NLL Finals for the second time in three years this past spring, currently sits in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 4-1 overall record and bring some heavy offensive firepower. Bandits forward Josh Byrne currently leads the league with his 20 goals and 37 points, while forward Dhane Smith leads the league with his 31 assists and is right behind Byrne with his 36 points.
Another hefty task on deck as the Knighthawks look to make it six in a row when they return home this Friday, Jan. 20 against the Bandits at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:30 p.m. contest will be the first of two scheduled meetings between the intrastate rivals this season and will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.