Knighthawks' Explosive Second Half Leads to Season-Opening Comeback Win Over Roughnecks

December 2, 2023 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Rochester Knighthawks News Release

(Rochester, NY) -An eight-goal run to start the second half backstopped by stellar goaltending guided the Rochester Knighthawks (1-0) to a 14-13 come-from-behind win over the Calgary Roughnecks (0-1) Saturday at Segar and Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena.

Connor Fields (4+2) and Ryan Smith (3+3) fueled the charge for the Knighthawks, combining for seven goals with each player earning six points to open the season. Austin Hasen (1+4), newcomer Kyle Waters (1+3), Turner Evans (1+2) and Dan Coates (0+2) all produced a multi-assist effort. Matt Gilray (2+1) and Ryland Rees (1+1) both logged multi-point efforts. Ethan O'Connor, Dan Lomas, Tyler Halls turned in one assist each while Mitch Ogilvie capped off the scoring with a goal.

Goaltender Riley Hutchcraft and Rylan Hartley split the duties in the crease, with Hartley drawing the starting nod. Hutchcraft, a sixth-year pro, played the final 44 minutes in relief, making 28 saves and earning his first career win in the NLL.

Jesse King (1+6) had a game-high seven points for the Roughnecks while Tyler Pace (3+3), Dan Taylor (1+3) and Tanner Cook (1+3) all notched three assists each. Josh Currier (3+0), Harrison Matsuka (1+1) and former Knighthawk Thomas Hoggarth (1+1) had multiple points. Zach Currier, Liam Leclair, Seth Van Schepen recorded one assist before Shane Simpson wrapped up the scoring with a goal.

Reigning NLL MVP and seven-year goaltender Christian Del Bianco earned the start in goal for Calgary, which reached the Western Conference Finals in 2022-23. The netminder finished with 50 saves, which included 32 in the first half.

Facing a 10-5 deficit after the opening 30 minutes, the second half took on a different identity, with Rochester eliminating Calgary's transition game, along with increasing the physicality to cut off space for the Roughnecks.

Those changes allowed for the Knighthawks to rattle off eight straight unanswered goals, keeping the opposition off the board for over 25 minutes to start the second half. Waters scored his first goal as a Knighthawk against his former team 2:11 into the third quarter to bring the 'Hawks within four. The former Roughneck for the past two seasons was hurled a stretch pass from Hasen all the way to the front of Del Bianco's crease, where Waters was parked to shoot low for the tally.

Rees and Fields followed with goals in short succession before Evans would convert on the power-play with 1:53 remaining in the third, cutting the deficit to one.

Just 20 seconds later, Gilray gathered a pass from Hasen that sailed over the heads of Calgary's defense for Gilray to find it in front, slamming the ball past Del Bianco to even the score at 10 apiece. Hasen's assist was one of four for the second-generation Knighthawk, who finished the evening with a career-high five points (1+5).

Rochester's sixth straight goal came off the stick of Smith, who flew through the air for a highlight reel goal from behind the net to get the ball over the top of Del Bianco's shoulder just 50 seconds into the fourth quarter, giving the Knighthawks their first lead since Fields scored the opening goal of the game.

Gilray and Hasen then padded the lead inside the first five minutes of the third quarter, with Hasen's goal putting the 'Hawks up, 13-10.

Calgary pulled within a goal twice during the final frame, but Fields struck again late for his fourth of the game with 2:49 remaining which proved to be the game-winning-goal.

Fields picked up where he left off from a season ago, scoring the first goal of the season for Rochester 4:21 into the opening quarter.

Haiden Dickson retaliated 30 seconds later to get Calgary on the board, beginning a four-goal run for the visiting team before Smith ended the push with his first of the season and the two teams traded goals from there until the end of the quarter, with Calgary taking a 6-3 lead into the second.

After Rochester opened the scoring with Field's first of the night, Calgary countered with four straight goals and five of the next six tallies to build a 5-2 score at the 10:27 mark.

Fields netted his second of the opening frame, however, Calgary pushed the score to 8-3 early in the second quarter.

Despite goals from Smith and Ogilvie, the Roughnecks maintained the advantage thanks to strong first-half performances from Pace, King, and Taylor, who collectively led Calgary into halftime with a 10-5 advantage.

Pace's goal scored 1:27 into the frame made it 8-3 at the time, sparking the Knighthawks to make a goaltending change, placing Hutchcraft in for Hartley, who finished his evening with six saves.

Following the half, Rochester, which outshot Calgary 64-47 during the game, outscored the Roughnecks 9-3 to earn the one-goal win to start the campaign.

The Knighthawks look to take their winning ways to Saskatchewan, where they'll face the Rush on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 8:00 p.m. ET. All the action from Co-op Field at SaskTel Centre will be carried live on Big 107.3 FM as well as ESPN+.

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