Rochester Knighthawks Season Outlook
The 2019/2020 NLL season has officially begun. The season began with much anticipation. Originally, I was posting season previews for each NLL team; however, I was busy with finals the past two weeks. Unfortunately, I was so busy studying, I could not pump out quality previews for the remaining teams. Instead of season previews (with the season having started), I am doing season outlook pieces on the teams I have yet to preview. They will be similar to season previews since the year is so young. Without further ado, let’s continue this series. Let’s see how the new Rochester Knighthawks have done.
These are not your old Knighthawks. The old team packed up and moved north to Halifax. The NLL threw Rochester, New York a bone and granted them a new Rochester Knighthawks franchise. Many wondered how this new team would fit in with an ever-improving league. The answer: they have work to do.
Rochester opened their inaugural season at home against the Georgia Swarm. They endured a wake-up call. With 5,642 eager fans in attendance, Georgia blew out to a 10-1 halftime lead. The final? 14-4 Georgia. Not much to be excited about from that performance. One moral victory is Rochester’s defense improved in the second half. They only allowed four goals. While the defense improved, the offense was a no show. 75% of their goals came in garbage time. Only Dan Lintner (1 goal, 1 assist) had a meaningful early goal, the first one in Rochester history.
Aside from Lintner, forwards Holden Cattoni (2 assists), Dan Michel (1 goal), Phil Caputo (1 goal), and defenseman Jay Thorimbert (1 goal) stood out. Forward Shawn Evans tallied an assist and nine loose balls. Evans’ great effort is shadowed by six penalty minutes. You can’t do that in the National Lacrosse League.
In transition, there were some bright spots. Ryland Rees (6 groundballs), Thomas Whitty (4 groundballs), and Chris Willman (5-7 on faceoffs) impressed. Defenseman, Matthew Bennett, scooped up six loose balls.
Rochester’s biggest standout was defenseman Jay Thorimbert. Thorimbert tallied 1 goal, 11 loose balls, and went 9-14 in faceoffs. For a defenseman, Thorimbert was rather active on offense and transition. Rochester should focus on building the defense and transition around him. Look for Thorimbert to be the face of the franchise come April.
Rochester goalie, Craig Wende, deserves credit for his effort. Wende had 44 saves with 14 goals against. He only gave up one or two ugly goals. He had no chance on most shots.
Enough with specific players. What else did we see from Rochester? For starters, the Knighthawks power play must improve. Rochester went 2-8 on power plays. If they went 100% on the power play, they have 10 goals. A 10-14 loss is respectable. On the flip side, Georgia went 3-4 on their power play. If Rochester didn’t take any penalties, and scored on all their power plays, they only lose 10-11. Anything could have happened! Special teams must improve.
Special teams aside, Rochester looked physically inferior to Georgia. They didn’t look like a true NLL team. Georgia forwards constantly bullied their way through the Rochester defense. Defensemen couldn’t stop Swarm forwards from sprinting ahead for an easy goal. Georgia dominated in 2v2s, a critical part of both field and box lacrosse. Defensemen allowed cross-crease passes like it was their job. The fundamentals just weren’t there.
I hate to be so critical, but it comes from a place of caring. Someone needs to call Rochester out for that performance. It was their first game, so bumps are expected; however, if you can’t even field a competitive roster, you should wait until you can (meaning don’t rush into fielding a Halifax replacement). Last year’s Rochester Knighthawks struggled, but at least they were competitive.
How did Rochester respond to their season opening dud? Knighthawks general manager, Dan Carey, announced Adam Perroni (transition) and Tyler Caulton (defenseman) were released. Defenseman, Darryl Robertson was signed to the active roster. Last year, Robertson played with the former Knighthawks and contributed with 2 goals, 10 assists, and 55 loose balls. Rochester hopes he can immediately contribute.
Rochester’s slate doesn’t get any easier. After a three-week hiatus, the Knighthawks face their predecessors in Halifax, play a home-and-home against Toronto, host Calgary, and visit Philadelphia and Buffalo. There’s no easy win there. Rochester must pull some upsets to prevent their season from abruptly ending. If they can beat Halifax and split with Toronto, they’ll stay in the north division race. Philadelphia is a winnable game compared to Calgary and Buffalo. If this scenario occurs, Rochester would be 3-4. A playoff berth would be possible.
Rochester isn’t making the playoffs this year. They are lacking in too many areas; however, the Knighthawks can improve throughout the year and build a solid future foundation. If Rochester goes 6-12, it’d be a successful first season. Preferably, they win those six at home. The team has talent but lacks that big name. Hopefully someone like Lintner or Thorimbert can become “the guy”. The team doesn’t have to win much to be successful. Just be exciting enough to keep fans coming back and excited for year two.
Do you agree with my Rochester season outlook? Disagree? Was I too hard on them? Whatever your thoughts, air them by connecting with me on Twitter or Instagram. You can comment directly onto this article by subscribing. By subscribing, you will be notified whenever I publish a new article. Again, I apologize for the lack of articles the past two weeks. I was busy with final papers and tests. With the semester finished, I am ready to pump out loads more lacrosse content. Here’s to growing the game of lacrosse! Good luck to the Rochester Knighthawks!