The Rochester Knighthawks will trim their active roster down to 23 players before the NLL cutdown deadline on Thursday. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
After pulling off a blockbuster trade, the Rochester Knighthawks have moved closer to setting their roster for the 2013 National Lacrosse League season. The Knighthawks are currently carrying 28 players and will get one final chance to evaluate their team at practice on Wednesday night before trimming down to a 23-man active roster and three-player practice squad by Thursday, Dec. 20.
“There will be one or two last-chance looks,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “We start our season earlier than most teams in the league so we have to get our roster set so we can get ready for January 5th.”
Rochester opens the NLL regular season on Saturday, Jan. 5 on the road against the Washington Stealth at Comcast Arena in Everett, Wash. The game is the first and only contest scheduled in the NLL that weekend.
The Knighthawks enter their 19th season of existence as the defending NLL champs for the third time in history. Winning the Champion's Cup in 2012 has made the final player moves that much more difficult.
“This year is tougher because we won with a really good group of guys,” Hasen said. “It’s hard, especially after you have success. There are a few tough decisions to be made. It’s the direction that Curt [Styres] started and the direction we need to move forward with.”
Styres, the Knighthawks owner who doubles as the team's general manager, said roster cutdown day is always difficult.
“It’s never a good day when you are the one making the calls,” Styres said. "It’s tough, but I think everyone knows what they are getting into [playing pro sports].”
Rochester made their biggest roster moves on Friday, pulling off a six-player, two draft pick deal with the Philadelphia Wings. That trade sent Paul Rabil, Joel White, Jordan Hall and Robbie Campbell to the Wings in exchange for Dan and Paul Dawson. Dan Dawson notched four points (1+3) in his Rochester preseason debut Saturday, while Paul Dawson earned one assist and added some grit to the defense.
“Paul has excellent defensive skills and provides a safe workplace for the other guys on the team,” said Styres of the 6-5, 225-pound defenseman.
Joining Paul is his brother, former NLL MVP Dan Dawson. The 31-year-old enters his 12th season in the NLL eighth on the all-time scoring list. Last season with the Wings, Dawson finished third in the NLL in points (103) and second in assists (78). He was named a First Team All-Pro and finished third in the MVP race. Dawson joins Casey Powell, Mike Accursi, Craig Point, Stephen Keogh and Alex “Kedoh” Hill on the right side of the offense, while the left side features Cody Jamieson, Joe Walters, Cory Vitarelli and Johnny Powless.
“We have more guys that can carry the ball," Styres said. "We have two on the right side and two on the left side. With Casey and Dan, the off-ball guys should find themselves open more. It will spread the offense out a lot."
The Rochester offense has added more firepower to its lineup for the upcoming season. Despite the addition of two former MVPs to his offense, Styres is being cautious about his team's possible complacency.
“Everyone wants to beat the champs because they're trying to prove something,” Styres said. “We have to work harder then we've ever worked before.”