Knighthawks Look to Halt Skid Tonight against Swarm
For the first time in nearly a month, the Rochester Knighthawks (3-4) return home tonight looking to halt a four-game skid when they host the Georgia Swarm (5-4) on Military Salute Knight at Segar & Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. 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+.
A win tonight would not only snap Rochester's current four-game skid but would give the Knighthawks four straight victories over Georgia dating back to last season. The Knighthawks, who opened the season with three consecutive wins for the second straight year, carry a three-game win streak against the Swarm into this weekend after earning the season sweep over Georgia in 2022-23. Rochester scored 47 goals in the three wins over the Swarm, the most against an opponent in a three-game span, including a franchise-best 19 goals in the 19-18 win back on March 12 of last season. With 37 combined goals, it was the highest scoring game in the NLL last season. Rochester's three-game win streak against Georgia, which conversely claimed the first three meetings between the two teams, is also the longest in franchise history against any single opponent. Rochester's power-play, which has gone 7-for-15 over the last three games, goes up against a Georgia defense that has the second-best penalty kill in the NLL. Coming into the weekend, the Swarm have successfully killed off 19-of-30 shorthanded situations for a 63.3% efficiency rate. Only the Colorado Mammoth have a better success rate (66.7%) than Georgia.
LAST TIME OUT
Despite a valiant six-goal fourth quarter and a heroic 11-point effort from forward Ryan Smith, the Knighthawks came up a goal short in a narrow 15-14 loss to the defending NLL champion Buffalo Bandits this past Saturday at KeyBank Center. Trailing 12-8 entering the final frame, Rochester eventually pulled within a goal in the final minute of regulation but ultimately couldn't complete the comeback. The loss dropped Rochester to 3-4 on the season after opening the year with three straight wins. Three of the four Knighthawks defeats during their skid have been decided by three goals or less. Along with Smith tying the single-game franchise record for goals (5), he also added six assists for a team-high 11 points while Connor Fields (4+5) and Ryan Lanchbury (2+2) both notched multi-goal games. Dan Lomas (1+2) and Kyle Waters (1+2) registered multiple points in the contest. Rookie Thomas McConvey (1+0), Austin Hasen (0+1), Matt Gilray (0+1), Ryland Rees (0+1), and Joe Post (0+1) all recorded one point each. Goaltender Riley Hutchcraft drew the start in the crease for Rochester, and despite making 41 saves, suffered the defeat. Except for the fourth quarter, he faced 11 or more shots in each frame. Former Bandit goaltender Doug Buchan, who was acquired by Rochester from Buffalo just days after the New Year, also saw time in the crease but did not make any saves in 63 seconds of play.
100 AND COUNTING FOR HASEN
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.
BACK TO WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Tonight's matchup will certainly be one of mixed emotions for Knighthawks forward Ryan Lanchbury, who will face his former team for the first time since being acquired from Georgia back in December. Lanchbury spent his rookie season with the Swarm in 2022-23 after being drafted second overall by Georgia in the 2021 NLL Entry Draft. In 10 games, he scored six goals and 10 assists while also adding 32 loose ball recoveries. After only six games since arriving to the Knighthawks following the Week 2 trade, Lanchbury has far surpassed his previous career-highs in all offensive categories while cementing himself as an elite offensive threat for Rochester. Lanchbury, who hasn't recorded less than four points per game since coming to Rochester, has vaulted into third on the team in scoring with 28 points (8+20) despite having only played in six games. Averaging 4.67 points per game through his first six games, the Burlington, Ontario, native is on pace to close out the 2023-24 regular season with 80 points.
Coming into this weekend, the Knighthawks currently rank eighth in the NLL with 565 total shots for, 400 of which have been on goal, and are second behind only Halifax in average shots per game (80.71). Rochester has outshot the opposition in five of its first seven games this season, including topping the 60-shot mark on three occasions. The Knighthawks are 2-3 this season when outshooting the opponent and 2-3 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 currently tied for second in the NLL with 107 shots.
Second-year face-off specialist Joe Post has been nearly unbeatable at the center dot this season, winning 130 face-offs on 211 attempts for a 61.6% success rate. His 130 wins rank fifth in the NLL while his 80 loose ball recoveries are second-most behind only Halifax's Jake Withers. 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 193-of-342 career face-off attempts, good for a 56.4% efficiency rate.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER
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 burst on the scene with the Knighthawks in 2023-24. The forwards have combined for 45 goals and 92 points through Rochester's first seven games, making them the third-best point-producing twosome in the league. Only Buffalo's Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith (106) and San Diego's Wesley Berg and Austin Staats (99) have collectively recorded more points this season. Even more impressively, Fields and Smith are the only teammates in the league to each have at least 20 goals and 46 points. Coming into this weekend, the forwards are tied for seventh in scoring in the NLL with 46 points each while Fields continue to pace all forwards with 63 loose ball recoveries. With another multi-goal effort against Buffalo last week, the East Amherst native has now scored two or more goals in 24 straight games dating back to last season. On the heels of a career-high 11-point performance against Buffalo, Smith has scored three goals or more in six of his first seven appearances this season, including five in last week's loss to the Bandits. He's also tied for the team lead with Fields with nine power-play points, including four goals.
SCOUTING THE SWARM
Georgia, playing its first of a season-long four-game road swing tonight, comes into the matchup after getting back in the win column by way of a 12-11 overtime victory over the Vancouver Warriors last Friday. The win, which snapped a three-game skid for the Swarm, came on the strength of an eight-point (4+4) performance from Andrew Kew while newcomer Seth Oakes led Georgia with a season-high five goals. For the second year in a row, the Swarm make their lone trip to Rochester fueled by the high-scoring trio of Lyle Thompson, Shayne Jackson and Kew, who have combined for 56 goals, 78 assists and 134 points through nine games this season. Entering the weekend, Georgia's big three remain the only trio in the NLL to have more than 20 assists and 40 points each. Thompson, a former NLL champion and league MVP, is fourth in the league with 24 goals and is tied for sixth in scoring with a team-best 47 points. A five-time winner of the NLL Sportsmanship Award, Thompson remains on pace to reach the 100-point mark for the third straight year and fifth time since 2017 when he finished with a career-best 116 points to lead Georgia to its only NLL title. Jackson remains at a close second with 44 points while also pacing the Swarm with 28 assists. Brett Dobson, the first goaltender taken in the 2022 NLL Entry Draft, is fourth in the league in wins (5) and saves (304). The St. Bonaventure grad was named a finalist for the 2023 NLL Rookie of the Year Award last season and was selected to the All-Rookie Team.
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