The Rochester Knighthawks’ third season in the National Lacrosse League is officially underway and, wow, did they have a hot start to the 2022-23 campaign with a dominating 16-11 win over the Georgia Swarm on the strength of an 11-point night from newcomer Connor Fields.
This week, the Knighthawks return home to The Blue Cross Arena to host the six-time NLL champion Toronto Rock in their Home Opener on Saturday.
Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey covers that and more in this week’s Hawk Talk.
GETTING THAT FIRST WIN OF 2022-23
Last Saturday night at South Gas Arena, the Knighthawks picked up their first win of the 2022-23 campaign, edging out the Swarm 16-11.
“I think we showed some resilience going into the half,” started Carey when asked what this first win of the year was an indication of with his team. “We were down 9-6…it was great for us to be able to kind of extend our lead once we got it back in the third.”
Here’s a little breakdown as to just how this past Saturday night in Georgia panned out.
Fields made an immediate impact in his Knighthawks debut, fueling the Rochester offense with a game-high four-goal outing to go with a seven-assist performance, setting the new single-season franchise record for most points in a game. Veterans Curtis Knight, Holden Cattoni, and Thomas Hoggarth all notched hat tricks while second-year pro Ryan Smith posted a five-point night. Rookie Austin Hasen posted a two-goal night in his NLL debut, while veteran defender Brad Gillies had a two-point effort in his first game with the expansion-era Knighthawks.
Ethan Schott, Tyler Halls and Dan Coates all recorded one assist each while goaltender Rylan Hartley got the first start of the season in the crease, making 45 saves on 56 shots he faced to finish with the win for the Knighthawks.
“I think it showed a lot about the character that we have and the guys that we have and that we added,” continued Carey about his team’s effort against the Swarm on Saturday. “We’ve added some dynamic players and veteran players as well. So, it was a great win but, again, I think in this league you have to move on pretty quickly, whether it’s a win or loss. We’re pretty happy after that game, but we’re moving on to the next challenge.”
HAVE YOURSELF A NIGHT CONNOR FIELDS
Speaking of one of those new dynamic players that Carey added in the offseason, Fields went OFF on Saturday, posting an 11-point night on four goals and seven assists.
“He’s one of those players that’s very dynamic,” explained Carey when asked what Fields’ dynamic skillset adds to the Rochester offense. “We had a great showing from a lot of guys, and I think he definitely benefited from that but, also, our other players around him benefited from his play.”
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.
In 33 career NLL games between the Buffalo Bandits and the San Diego Seals, Fields has totaled 127 points on 56 goals and 71 assists after being selected in the first round (10th overall) by the Seals in the 2018 NLL Entry Draft.
With his 11 points last night, Fieldsy set a new single-season franchise record for most points in a game‼️ pic.twitter.com/wGIpumohUN
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) December 4, 2022
With Fields’ arguably being Carey’s biggest acquisition in the offseason, I think it’s safe to say that the forward didn’t disappoint the Knighthawks fan base or coaching staff after game one of the 2022-23 campaign.
“He works so hard, he prepares so well and, I think, given the opportunity that he has here, he’s going to have the ball on his stick more. We have, what I believe, is a little bit more of a well-rounded offense this year, and he’s a big part of that. It was great to see him have the success that he had in game one.”
AUSTIN HASEN FITTING RIGHT IN
Another player that didn’t disappoint in his Knighthawks debut was that of rookie forward Austin Hasen.
“He’s going to be a difficult player to play against. He’s a very aggressive, physical player,” began Carey when asked about what he saw from Hasen in his first game as a pro.
Now, we all know that Hasen isn’t a stranger to the league because his dad, Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen, is an NLL legend.
In order to even acquire 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.
Austin Hasen scored not only his first but also his second pro goal on Saturday!
Here is to many, many more! pic.twitter.com/WaGDSe0z4f
— Rochester Knighthawks (@RocKnighthawks) December 5, 2022
Again, this move didn’t disappoint the Rochester fanbase or the staff as Hasen went on to net two goals in Saturday’s game against Georgia.
“I think he took his opportunities right,” continued Carey when describing the way Hasen came out in his first game. “It wasn’t a rookie that was a little nervous to take it in and didn’t want to do too much. He had some opportunities to shoot the ball and he had success. So, we expect that from him and we’re going to expect even more moving forward.”
TAKING ON TORONTO
Just like Rochester, the Toronto Rock are off to a 1-0 start to the 2022-23 campaign after the NLL’s Face-Off Weekend.
“They’re dynamic,” commented Carey when asked what the Knighthawks need to be aware of when it comes to the Rock offense. “They have a lot of firepower on their offense. They move the ball very well. They’re one of the top teams in the league, and we’ve seen that the last couple of years…they’re going to be tough to play against.”
The Rock have a lot of returning faces like forward Tom Schreiber and goaltender Nick Rose, while bringing in newcomers like forward Corey Small, who struck three times in just the first half of Toronto’s game against the Vancouver Warriors last weekend. With the versatility that the Rock will bring not just on their offense, but their defense as well, Carey emphasized how his team needs to be extremely committed to not just focusing on one guy on the floor and sticking to a team game.
“We got to be committed to really not just focusing on one guy but playing our team game and putting them in the spots that we want them in and they’re not looking to get. Offensively, they’re a great team, but I think their strength is just as much, or more, on the back end. They’re very, very good defensively and in the net. So, we have a very tough challenge ahead of us and we’re excited for that.”
BACK AT BLUE CROSS ARENA LIKE WE NEVER LEFT
The Knighthawks return home on Saturday when they host the Rock on Opening Knight at Segar & Scioritino Field.
“I think there’s a lot that excites us about being back at home at the Blue Cross Arena,” said Carey when asked what excites him the most about being back home in front of the fans in Rochester. “We have kind of a clean slate and have a different team. So, we’re really excited about showcasing that, but know that there’s a lot of work ahead of us. We want to come out and work as hard as we possibly can for our fans here in Rochester and we’re excited for them to show up for our first home game.”
All 18 Knighthawks game this season will once again be available on Big 107.3 and ESPN+.