While the Rochester Knighthawks seem to be the biggest underdog in the National Lacrosse League this season, they’re not letting any outside opinions deter just how they’re going to take on the 2022-23 campaign. In fact, the outside noise has been nothing but motivation as the Knighthawks remain the only undefeated team in the league with a perfect 6-0 start to the year.
“Hey, I think we sent a bold statement here tonight,” stated Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen when asked if he could just admit his team was good after Friday’s 15-12 win over the Buffalo Bandits. “We were on our heels for the entire first half. They were real good and they were buzzing and we just kind of paused, took a breath and pushed back, which was great to see.”
Trailing 11-10 entering the fourth quarter, the Knighthawks went on to score five straight unanswered goals over a six-minute span on their way to closing out a 15-12 win over the Bandits in a battle between the NLL’s top two teams.
By winning their franchise-best sixth straight on Friday, the Knighthawks remain in first place in the NLL’s Eastern Conference standings, while the win also marked the first in franchise history over the Bandits. Not to forget that Hasen also tied legendary head coach Les Bartley for sixth all-time in the NLL with 93 career coaching victories as well.
“Obviously, that was a huge win for us and we’re starting to feel like we’re a good team,” started second-year pro Ryan Smith who had himself a nine-point effort against Buffalo.
As Smith went on to have his best game of the season so far powered by a career-high five goals and four assists, forward Holden Cattoni and former Bandit Connor Fields both turned in a hat trick for Rochester. Knighthawks forwards Thomas Hoggarth and Curtis Knight and transition player Matt Gilray and defenseman Brad Gillies all had multi-point games as well.
HOW WE FEELIN’ THIS MORNING, KNIGHTHAWKS FANS!? pic.twitter.com/WNRJhW4Vrp
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) January 21, 2023
It was yet another decently low scoring affair for the Knighthawks where defense and goaltending played a big role in the outcome. While the tides fell in Rochester’s favor, it also indicated just how truly dangerous the Knighthawks team can be for the remainder of the season.
“I think we just proved that we are a contender in this league. I bet you there’s still going to be some doubters out there, but I think in that locker room we know how good of a team we are, and I think that’s really all that matters,” commented Fields, the former Bandit, when asked what the Knighthawks proved with Friday’s win.
Friday was just the beginning of a lethal stretch of Eastern Conference opponents for the Knighthawks. This upcoming Friday, Rochester takes on the Halifax Thunderbirds for the first time this season, before alternating between Buffalo and Halifax the following two weeks. Rochester then wraps up the month of February taking on the New York Riptide for the final time this season, before their last matchup against the Toronto Rock for the year kicks off the month of March.
Not an easy task for the young franchise, however, with the roll that the Knighthawks are on it seems that they’ll give any opponent a true run for their money.
“I think we’re a really dangerous team to run into now,” finished Fields when discussing the success the Knighthawks are seeing right now.
The Knighthawks fly north of the border in search of their seventh straight win on Friday, Jan. 27 when they take on the Thunderbirds at Scotiabank Centre. The 6 p.m. ET matchup will be the first of two scheduled meetings between the two teams this season and will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.