The Rochester Knighthawks (5-6) look to improve their playoff position with two divisional games this weekend. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Every coach and player in the NLL will state that their next game is the most important, but it’s fair to say that the Rochester Knighthawks are in the midst of their most important weekend so far in 2013.
The Knighthawks (6-6) got back to .500 and earned some breathing room for second place in the East Division by handing the Philadelphia Wings (5-8) their fifth-straight loss with a 14-7 home win at The Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night.
The Knighthawks are currently in second place in the East Division with a 1.5 game lead over the Wings and Buffalo Bandits.
On Sunday, the Knighthawks will travel north of the border for a contest against the Toronto Rock at Air Canada Centre at 3 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
“With everything being so tight, it’s almost two must-win games for us,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “You can’t afford to slip and drop [in the standings] any bit. With the way this league is, everybody is breathing down our necks. We need to take advantage of this opportunity in front of us.”
“We’re all really excited for this weekend,” said defenseman Mike Kirk. “I think we’ve all kind of circled our calendars for the end of March and the beginning of April. This is the time we’re really looking forward to, kind of the thick of our schedule.”
The Knighthawks earned a pivotal 12-8 win over the Rock last weekend, their first home win over Toronto in the regular season since January 30, 2010. Rochester gained an early 4-0 advantage in the first quarter, while goaltender Matt Vinc held the Rock scoreless for the first 15 minutes, which helped earn him the NLL Defensive Player of the Week award for Week #13. Rochester scored four straight again in the fourth to take an 11-5 advantage before securing the win. The victory, combined with a Philadelphia loss to Colorado, propelled Rochester into second place.
“It was a good effort last week and it was nice to get the monkey off our back with a win at home,” Hasen said. “We’re looking to hopefully continue that Saturday and do a lot of the little things we did well. Our ball movement was very good and our feet movement was good on defense.”
Although the Wings have lost four in a row, they beat the Knighthawks by a score of 10-8 last time they visited The Blue Cross Arena. The loss was disappointing to say the least, especially after the Knighthawks dismantled the Wings 20-10 in their first meeting of the season.
“It was great to have a win last weekend, but we’ve already shifted our focus towards Philly to get that weekend started off on the right foot,” Kirk said.