The back-to-back champion Rochester Knighthawks re-signed veteran defenseman Ian Llord to a two-year contract agreement. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
The Rochester Knighthawks have re-signed veteran defenseman Ian Llord to a two-year deal and second-year defender Cody McLeod to a one-year contract agreement
Llord, a seven-year NLL pro from St. Catharines, Ontario, ended his first season in Rochester by winning the second Champion’s Cup of his career.
“Ian is a reliable vet who provides stability to our defense,” said Knighthawks team captain Sid Smith.
The St. Catharines, Ontario native returns to the back-to-back National Lacrosse League Champions after winning three lacrosse titles in 2013. In fact, he achieved one of the greatest feats in lacrosse by winning the Champion’s, Presidents’ and Mann Cups all in the same year.
“Right now you don’t really want to let it sink in because you want to keep playing,” he said. “It is something when I am older, and I am watching my kids play, that I can look back on and say that was a pretty fun year. It is definitely something I can be proud of.”
Llord came on late for the Knighthawks last season as the team won their second-straight NLL Championship by edging the Stealth 11-10.
The 28-year-old Llord and his teammates will get back to work on Saturday. This season, Llord comes to camp as a full-fledged member of the Knighthawks. Prior to the 2013 season, he was trying out to crack the 23-man roster. The two-year deal has the veteran of 90 NLL games very anxious to get camp underway.
“I think my experience and coming into camp in good shape (will benefit me this season). I played a lot of lacrosse this year and kept my stick in my hands,” he said. “I have to go out there, work hard and show them I am ready to come back and be an asset to the team.”
Llord arrived in Rochester after spending five of his six seasons in the NLL with the Knighthawks’ thruway rivals, the Buffalo Bandits. He was drafted in the first round by Philadelphia in the 2006 NLL Entry Draft and spent the 2007 season with the Wings. He was eventually traded to Buffalo, where he played 65 games with the Bandits since 2008. In his first season with Buffalo, Llord won the 2008 Champion’s Cup alongside current Knighthawks forward Mike Accursi.
The second Cup, however, meant more to Llord because of the road he took to win the NLL’s top prize. Llord earned a starting spot on the defending champs after signing with the Knighthawks after attending their Free Agent Camp.
“I was lucky to win one my first couple of years in the league. This one meant a lot more because I felt this time I had more of an impact,” he said. “I think it meant a little more with Curt (Styres) flying my wife and son in. Everybody else had family there and I got along with everyone really well on the team. As you get older, it means a little more.”
In 2013, Llord played in 14 games with the Knighthawks and notched one goal, two assists and 42 loose balls. He also appeared in all three of the team’s playoff games, which ended with an NLL Championship. The addition of Llord added some more grit to the Knighthawks’ defense.
“He is a good stay-at-home defenseman and helps the goalies with his willingness to sacrifice his body to block shots,” added Assistant Coach Jason Johnson. “He is one of the big guys on the team that is ready to do the dirty work.”
One player that really appreciates his style of play is three-time NLL Goalie of the Year Matt Vinc. “Vno” grew up playing with Llord and the two won a Minto Cup title together in 2003 with the St. Catharines Athletics. He was glad to hear that the team locked up Llord for two more seasons.
“I have won two championships with Llordy. He does all the little things that make him a great ‘D’ guy,” he said. “Whether it is playing hard-nose defense or blocking shots, he lays it on the line and does whatever it takes to win.”
McLeod, who spent his rookie season on the practice squad, is ready to take the next step in his professional lacrosse career.
“The same goal applies – a different perspective and look from what I’m bringing and what I want to accomplish this year – but the main goal remains the same, and that’s to get the third straight championship in a row,” McLeod said.
McLeod has changed his approach to the game in his second season. No longer is he satisfied with his role on the practice squad. Instead, he is ready to crack the starting lineup.
“Every practice he got better,” Rochester Head Coach Mike Hasen said. “That’s all we can ask of him. His opportunity will come, and we’re pretty confident he is getting prepared for it the best he possibly can. We’ll see when that opportunity comes.”
“He’s a good, young player. With the players we have returning, it will be tough for him to make the lineup, but the tools are there,” said Assistant Coach Jason Johnson.
McLeod also received praise from fellow defender Sid Smith.
“Cody is a young hardworking defenseman,” said Smith. “He improves every time I see him play.”
The last player taken in the annual NFL Draft is given the infamous nickname “Mr. Irrelevant.” McLeod, the 56th and final pick of the 2012 NLL Entry Draft, has prepared himself this offseason to become relevant during Rochester’s run to a third consecutive league title.
“I think I’m ready,” he said. “I had a great offseason. I worked really hard. I lost a lot of weight and gained a lot of muscle.
“I made it my job this offseason to get bigger, faster, stronger. I did a lot of work studying the game so I could get smarter. I worked on my foot speed and my agility. I really took it upon myself to get better in every aspect.”
McLeod also sharpened his mental game, as he found a mentor in fellow Orangeville, Ontario native and seven-year NLL veteran Mike Kirk. Both graduates of the prestigious Orangeville Junior “A” lacrosse program, the two bonded during commutes to games and practices.
“Cody knew his role as a young guy in the NLL. He practiced hard every week to get better, but also help make the team better,” said Kirk, who serves as one of the Knighthawks’ assistant captains. “I had the honor of traveling with him each week and it was a lot of fun getting to know him. Coming from the same hometown, it was great to try and show a young guy the ropes in the NLL.”
ILIndoor.com recognized McLeod for some of his off-the-field talents. The website ranked him as the sixth-best Twitter personality among NLL players.
According to the lacrosse website, it is McLeod’s “humor, keen observation and truth” that makes him a social media must-follow.
“I got a text from (Minnesota transition player) Andrew Suitor and I had no idea what he was talking about until I got the tweet. I didn’t even think they knew who I was, so it was kind of a big surprise,” McLeod said. “It was kind of cool at the same time. I have a unique humor I guess you can say. Maybe they found it funny.”
Fans can follow McLeod in person at Knighthawks Training Camp, which will take place at the brand new, state-of-the-art Unity Health System Total Sports Experience location in East Rochester. The first practice will be held on Saturday, November 23rd from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.