Knighthawks taking NLL by storm
NLL – From the second the team stepped on the turf on Dec. 9, it was clear that there was something different with this year’s version of the Rochester Knighthawks.
“The biggest difference is the culture in the dressing room and the work ethic,” said forward Dan Dawson. “We have to understand that we have to stay even keel no matter what we’re doing. We are getting contributions from everyone on the floor, which makes for some success.”
One of the team’s top performers has been netminder Matt Vinc. It was the play of Vinc that helped Rochester make a statement on opening night. Against the Calgary Roughnecks, “Vno” held the Calgary offense to a record-tying low six goals in a dominating 17-6 Rochester victory.
Vinc’s stellar performance carried over to the next game of the season as Rochester took on its thruway rivals, the Buffalo Bandits. On Dec. 23, he played one of the best games of his 13-year career, making a career-best 55 saves in a dominating 21-11 victory.
“He was on a mission,” said head coach Mike Hasen. “We wanted to be better and so far he’s doing a great job.”
“‘V’ is making those big saves for us,” added Hasen. “Offensively we’re moving the ball and moving our feet. So everything is really working in our favor.”
While Vinc and the defence were keeping the ball out of the net, the offence opened the new campaign on a record pace. Never before in the 24-year history of the franchise had the Knighthawks scored 38 goals in the first two games of a season. One of the big reasons has been the return of Cody Jamieson, Josh Currier and Cory Vitarelli, who have combined for 14 goals and 18 assists.
Rochester has also benefitted from the addition of Mike Accursi and Marshall Abrams to the coaching staff. With the two former NLL stars handling the offense, the Knighthawks have scored a league-high 49 goals, and have two players in the Top 5 in points in Joe Resetarits (19) and Dawson (18).
“It’s definitely been great since Day One of camp,” said Resetarits. “They’re letting us go out there and do our thing. We play fast and get to the net.”
After three games, Rochester is tied for first place in the East Division with a 2-1 record. The Knighthawks have gotten off to the impressive start thanks to exceptional play in all areas of their game.
Rochester is tops in the NLL in power-play efficiency (71.43) and penalty killing (82.35), while the defense has elevated its game as well, allowing just over 10 goals-per-game. Vinc leads the league with 135 saves and is second with an .813 save percentage. He is also third with a 10.33 goals-against average. It has been the play of the veteran goalie that has been another key to the team’s early success.
“When Matt puts up performances like he has been, it gives us an opportunity on every end,” said Dawson.
The Knighthawks will travel to play the Toronto Rock on Friday, Jan. 12 and will then return home to host the New England Black Wolves the following night.
With much of the season still ahead of them, the goal will continue to be making every win a team effort.
“I think they guys are having a lot of fun out there,” said Hasen. “When you’re winning and firing on all cylinders, it’s a lot easier to come to the rink and get a win. We’re looking forward to what the rest of the season has in store.”