The Rochester Knighthawks (4-5) host the Edmonton Rush (5-5) at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday at 7:30pm ET for a rematch of the 2012 NLL Championship Game. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
The Rochester Knighthawks (4-5) host the Edmonton Rush (5-5) at the Blue Cross Arena on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET in a rematch of the 2012 NLL Championship Game. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Although the contest is a rematch of last year’s title game, a 9-6 comeback win by the Knighthawks, both teams insisted they have moved on.
“Things are a lot different this year,” said Knighthawks defenseman Rory Glaves. “We need a win, they need a win. That’s all we are really focusing on right now is, for us, just getting a win this weekend. We still got some things we’re working on within our own group. As far as last year, that’s in the past. This year is new and we’re moving forward. We need a win this weekend.”
“We’re obviously excited,” said Rush captain Jimmy Quinlan. “We haven’t been back there since the championship game, but that’s behind us and we’re looking forward to the challenge this weekend.”
Rochester began the second half of the season with a 12-11 win over Colorado on March 2. The Knighthawks were a second-half team last season, making a late run to earn home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs and coming from behind in the final 30 minutes of the championship against Edmonton.
“We sort of got on the right track for the second half of the season with our last win,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “We’re looking forward to getting back at it after a week off and hopefully pick up where we left off a couple of weeks ago.”
Rochester was the most active team in the National Lacrosse League prior to Wednesday’s trade deadline. The Knighthawks pulled off three trades in an effort to add depth to the back end.
On Tuesday, forward Casey Powell was sent to the Colorado Mammoth in exchange for defenseman Jon Sullivan and a third-round pick in the 2014 NLL Entry Draft.
In two separate trades on Wednesday, the Knighthawks acquired a transition player and defenseman from the Buffalo Bandits. The first swap sent Jimmy Purves to Rochester for a second-round pick in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft. The Bandits then traded Scott Self east down the I-90 for Alex “Kedoh” Hill.
“We need some depth back there,” Hasen said. “We feel, in our locker room anyways, that our strength is our back end. We just need to tighten it up a little bit. Unfortunately, (Powell) was sent over to Colorado, who I know is going to make them a heck of a lot better.”
Hasen noted all of the new additions will also help the Knighthawks advance the ball over the time line out of their zone, “which is one thing we are addressing.”
Rochester’s defense has statistically been one of the best in the league during the middle portion of the schedule. Goaltender Matt Vinc has a league-low 10.08 goals against average. The Knighthawks also lead the league in shorthanded defense by killing 65% of their penalties.
On the other side of the ball, unloading Powell will give the forwards in a crowded offense more playing time, which will hopefully help the team’s scoring woes.
“We need our offense clicking, but we are not pegging our offense on one particular guy,” Hasen said. “We’ll clarify guy’s roles a bit more now that Casey has left us. We need everyone going because we haven’t been happy as a group, for the most part.”
Self will be reuniting with his younger brother, Brad, for the third time in his career.
“I am happy to have him on the team. His career record in the NLL is 8-2 against me,” Brad said.
The Rush did not make any trades, watching as the deadline came and went.
“Five or six games left, everybody’s on the hunt for any position in the playoffs, really,” said Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. “If you look over the last two or three seasons, there’s been very few deadline deals.”
Edmonton has chosen to stick with a young team that seems to be working for them.
“We like the group we have,” Keenan said. “We’re going to stick with our young group and move forward with that.”
Led by Ryan Ward’s franchise-record 10 points (2+8), the Rush entered their bye week with a 18-13 road win over the Calgary Roughnecks (6-5), snapping a 12-game losing streak to their provincial rivals.
“The win in Calgary was huge for our locker room,” Quinlan said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys who’ve been down there, and, you know, we’ve come up on the short end of the stick. For us, it really validated how good we can be. It was good to finally take one in their arena.”
After the Rush came up just short in their improbable run to the title game last season, they will now look to take one at Blue Cross Arena against a new-look Knighthawks team.
“They’re a good team,” Keenan said. “They’re a good defensive team. They’ve got a very, very good goalie, and we need to execute our offense and work extremely hard. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”