Rochester Knighthawks

Desert Dogs Make Inaugural Visit to Rochester Tonight

February 24, 2024 - National Lacrosse League (NLL)
Rochester Knighthawks News Release

The Rochester Knighthawks (3-5) officially reach the halfway point of the 2023-24 regular season tonight as they close out their two-game homestand against the Las Vegas Desert Dogs (3-6) at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:00 p.m. matchup will be the lone meeting this season between the two teams and will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.


Both teams have endured their own struggles as of late with only one win over a combined five games in the month of February. Las Vegas makes its inaugural trip to Rochester having dropped three of its last four while the Knighthawks, who after opening the season with three consecutive wins for the second year in a row, have lost five straight dating back to their Dec. 29 loss to San Diego prior to the turn of the new year. Four of the team's five losses over that span, however, have come by three goals or less, including a narrow one-goal setback to the defending NLL champion Buffalo Bandits earlier this month. Tonight's matchup is a tale of two teams when it comes to home and road success. Rochester is 2-2 at home this season within the friendly confines of Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena while the Desert Dogs are 1-4 inside Michelob Ultra Arena. Conversely, the Knighthawks are 1-3 outside the Flower City while Las Vegas boasts a 2-2 record through its four games as the visiting team, including becoming just the second team this season to take down the league-leading Albany FireWolves to open the month of February. Despite their recent struggles, the Knighthawks are still averaging a league-best 13.00 goals per game, matching that of Halifax, which has played two more games than Rochester coming into the weekend. With only 86 goals through their first nine games, the Desert Dogs remain the only NLL team averaging less than 10 goals per game and are one of five to have scored fewer than 100 goals through the halfway point of the season.


Another furious second-half rally by the Knighthawks came up just short as the Georgia Swarm pulled away in the final 25 seconds of regulation to escape with a 14-12 win at Segar and Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena on Feb. 10. Hat tricks from Ryan Smith and Thomas McConvey fueled the second-half push for the Knighthawks, who rallied back from several multi-goal deficits to tie the contest at 12-12 before Andrew Kew scored the tiebreaker with 25 seconds remaining. In addition to Smith and McConvey's three-goal nights, Austin Hasen and Ryan Lanchbury each netted a pair of goals, while Connor Fields and Kyle Waters also found the back of the net. Lanchbury finished with seven points (2+5) in his first game against his former team and Fields led the way in helpers with eight assists. Mitch Ogilvie earned an assist to round out the scoring for Rochester. In the face-off dot, Joe Post continued to lead the way, winning 19 of 30 draws.


The 13-11 home win over Vancouver back on Dec. 23 came with historical significance in the fact that not only did the Knighthawks enjoy a 3-0 start for the second straight year, but it also served as the 100th win for Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen, who became just the sixth coach in league history to reach 100 career wins. Hasen surpassed legendary head coach Les Bartley for sixth all-time following the win over Halifax on Feb. 11 of last season, making him one of three finalists for the 2023 NLL Coach of the Year. He also joined elite company back on March 25 in Las Vegas, when he was behind the bench for his 200th regular-season game, a feat only five others in league history have accomplished before him. He became just the sixth head coach - and third last season behind Georgia's Ed Comeau and Vancouver's Troy Cordingley - to have coached 200 National Lacrosse League games. Hasen also owns the distinction of being the only member of the prestigious group to reach the mark having spent his entire career in the same city. One of the most decorated coaches in league history, Hasen is certainly no stranger to Rochester, having previously served as head coach of the former Knighthawks franchise from 2011 to 2019. Hasen's most successful run at the helm of the Knighthawks came from 2012-14 when he made National Lacrosse League history by leading Rochester to an unprecedented three straight Champion's Cups. Hasen, who was named the NLL Coach of the Year in 2011, remains the only NLL bench boss to accomplish the feat.


Coming into this weekend, the Knighthawks currently rank eighth in the NLL in total shots for (650) but continue to pace the league in average shots per game (81.25). Rochester has outshot the opposition in six of its first eight games this season, including topping the 60-shot mark on three occasions. The Knighthawks are 2-4 this season when outshooting the opponent and 2-4 when surpassing the 50-shot mark. Connor Fields set the new franchise record for the most shots in a game with 21 in the 17-14 loss at San Diego on Dec. 29, besting the 18 he had against Calgary on Dec. 2. Averaging over 15 shots per game, he's third in the NLL with 120 shots trailing only Albany's Alex Simmons and New York's Jeff Teat.


Second-year face-off specialist and Canandaigua native Joe Post has been nearly unbeatable at the center dot this season, winning 148 face-offs on 240 attempts for a 61.7% success rate. His 148 wins, which as of Feb. 10 are a new single-season franchise record, rank fourth in the NLL while his 88 loose ball recoveries are also fifth-most. Post's 24 face-off wins on Dec. 9 in Saskatchewan set the new single-game mark, far surpassing his own record of 19 he set in the 2022-23 regular-season finale against Philadelphia. Dating back to his rookie season, Post, who played his collegiate lacrosse at nearby St. John Fisher University, has won 211-of-371 career face-off attempts, good for a 56.9% efficiency rate.


After emerging as one of the most dynamic and productive scoring duos in the NLL a season ago, Connor Fields and Ryan Smith have again taken the league by storm in 2023-24. The forwards have combined for 49 goals and 105 points through Rochester's first eight games, making them the fourth-best point-producing twosome in the league. Only Buffalo's Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith (123), New York's Jeff Teat and Connor Kearnan (117), and San Diego's Wesley Berg and Austin Staats (108) have collectively recorded more points this season. Even more impressively, Fields and Smith remain the only teammates in the league to each have at least 23 goals and 50 points at the halfway point of the season. Fields leads all Knighthawks with 31 assists and 54 points, tying him for sixth in overall scoring. Additionally, Fields leads all NLL forwards with 70 loose ball recoveries and remains on pace of capturing his second straight 100-point season, a feat that only one other American-born player (Joe Resetarits) in NLL history has accomplished. Despite recording a team-high eight points in the previous matchup against Georgia, it was the first time in 25 games dating back to last season that the East Amherst native failed to score more than two goals in a game. Smith, meanwhile, leads the Knighthawks and is tied for fourth in the NLL with 26 goals. The third-year pro has scored three goals or more in seven of his first eight appearances this season, including a career-high five against Buffalo back on Feb. 3.


While it may be the first visit to Rochester for the Desert Dogs franchise, it's more like a homecoming for second-year head coach and general manager, Shawn Williams. One of the most prolific scorers in NLL history, Williams called Rochester home for a decade having spent 10 of his 17 pro seasons with the previous Knighthawks franchise from 2002 to 2011. During his time in Rochester, Williams was a six-time NLL All-Star and was named a First Team All-Pro selection following the 2004 season after finishing third in the league with a career-best 45 goals and ranking eighth in overall scoring with 81 points. He also topped the 90-point mark twice in a three-year span, beginning in 2007 when he led the Knighthawks to an NLL championship before closing out the 2009 campaign with 93 points. Williams, who appeared in all 16 games in each of his 10 seasons with the Knighthawks, finished his tenure in Rochester with 801 points on 309 goals and 492 assists in 160 career games. He also led the Knighthawks to eight playoff appearances over his 10-year stay in Rochester, including six straight between 2002 and 2007. Williams, who retired following a four-game stint with the Buffalo Bandits during the 2014 season, was inducted into the NLL Hall of Fame in 2021 as a first ballot nominee.


The Desert Dogs have endured another up-and-down start to their second NLL season. As the league's newest expansion franchise, Las Vegas dropped three of its first four games of the season before finding its stride after the New Year, winning two of its next three. Since then, however, the Desert Dogs have dropped back-to-back contests and have yet to win consecutive games all season. Las Vegas is fueled offensively by veteran forward and team captain Rob Hellyer, who paces the team in assists (29) and points (41) while appearing in all nine games this season. Hellyer, who came to Las Vegas ahead of its inaugural campaign by way of a trade from Toronto where he spent his first 10 seasons, is also second on the team with 12 goals. Landon Kells has carried most of the workload between the pipes for the Desert Dogs, showing a 3-5 record in nine appearances. The second-year netminder is tied for 10th in the NLL in wins while his 324 saves are ninth-most amongst league goaltenders entering this weekend.

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