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Rochester Young-Guns Stepping Up

By Jeremy Pike / NLL.com Correspondent

Photo by Micheline V / Rochester Knighthawks

All it took was one glance at the roster for everyone to realize that the 2016-2017 Rochester Knighthawks were going to be different. The usual suspects on offense were nowhere to be found. 2014 MVP Cody Jamieson and Cory Vitarelli were missing due to lingering injuries. Stephen Keogh was moved to the physically unable to perform list with the flu prior to the opener. Craig Point was cut. Joe Walters did not report to the team. Even after the first week, changes were made as Dan Dawson suited up for the opener but was placed on the holdout list prior to the Knighthawks’ second game.

The Knighthawks rookie forwards have been tasked with stepping up. Through two games, the early results are good. Sixth-overall pick Josh Currier scored his first goal against the Toronto Rock in Rochester’s season opener, before recording his first career hat trick (along with two assists) against the New England Black Wolves.

“That was pretty cool,” said Currier about his first hat trick. “But I was just really happy that we got the win. It was a real sour taste after last game, so the fact that we got the win makes tonight awesome.”

“He’s got fast feet, fast hands,” said Knighthawks Head Coach Mike Hasen after the season opener. “He was moving all night long.”

Currier became the highest-drafted player out of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in NLL history after an illustrious four-year career at Virginia Wesleyan College. He totaled 214 goals and 139 assists in just 65 career games. Currier’s coach spoke glowingly of his game on the school’s site after the draft.

“Josh was one of the best to ever play at this level,” said VWC Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach J.P. Stewart. “His credentials speak for themselves as the all-time leading scorer in ODAC history, a two-time ODAC Player of the Year, a four-time All-American, and the sixth-leading scorer in the history of Division III lacrosse.”

“What really set Josh apart, though, was his passion for the game and for his team,” Stewart added. “He was always one of our hardest workers on and off the field, and he always did everything in his power to help make our team and his teammates better. I speak for all involved with Marlin lacrosse when I say that we are incredibly proud of Josh and excited for his future in the NLL.”

Currier’s fellow first-round pick, Kyle Jackson, did not record a point versus Toronto. However, Jackson burst on the scene in week two with an 11-point night (2G-9A) and led all scorers in the Knighthawks’ big 15-8 victory over the Black Wolves.

“The kid is working real hard, and he’s taking a pounding out there,” Hasen said after the game. “It’s a good night for him to get those kind of numbers, because he works hard every single shift.”

Jackson spent four years at the University of Michigan and scored 88 goals while dishing out 25 assists in 52 career games. He finished his career as the Wolverines’ all-time leading scorer, and is the first Michigan player to be drafted in the NLL.

Dan Lomas was selected in the second round of the 2016 draft and was on the Knighthawks practice squad. When Dan Dawson went on the holdout list, Lomas got a chance to suit up and responded with a five-point night of his own (2G-3A).

Lomas had a distinguished career at High Point University, appearing in 61 games and recording 159 goals and 24 assists. According to the University’s site, Lomas is the school’s all-time leading scorer, and finished with the top four single season goal-scoring marks in the program’s history. 

“Rochester got an amazing player, person, and one of the most competitive people I have ever met. Dan is going to have an incredible career in the NLL and our entire HPU family is excited to continue to watch him dominate,” said High Point Head Coach Jon Torpey after the NLL Draft.

Even in a short period of time left, the Knighthawks rookies have left favorable impressions on the team’s veterans.

“Lot of young speed,” said Dan Dawson. “They’re actually great lacrosse players. With youth does come some growing pains, but we felt like we have some good chemistry early. We’re just going to ride these guys out. That’s the way it is, this is who we’re going with. We’re excited with the people we have on the floor.”

After the game versus the Black Wolves, Hasen reiterated that even with all the fresh faces, the offensive approach would still remain the same.

“That’s our philosophy every time, even if Jammer, Vitarelli, and Dawson are here,” Hasen said. “It’s by committee. We’ve got to move the ball, move our feet. If we can do that and make most of our opportunities, guys are going to go off.”

For rookies only two weeks into their NLL careers, the maturity is evident. Individual accolades are noted, but the emphasis is put on the success of the team. That mindset fits well into a locker room that has long placed the group over the individual.

As for the individual accolades and the early success, the scouts in Rochester have to be given credit. After all, the Knighthawks found a great defender in Graeme Hossack with the fourth overall pick in 2015. Rochester has retooled on the fly even with a down year last season.

“Lot of credit, it is a lot of work on their end,” Hasen said. “Stu Brown, Jody Gage, Curt (Styres), Chris Driscoll, they’re all guys that are watching, looking, trying to see what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are. We knew last year it was time to turn the page, get a little bit younger.”

While players like Jamieson, Vitarelli, and Dawson could very well rejoin Rochester at some point during the season, these three young players have already left a big impression and will continue to do so when the opportunity arises.