The Rochester Knighthawks will visit San Diego on Saturday night, giving the 5-6 Seals an opportunity to get to .500 for the first time this season. The Knighthawks are deceptively capable; despite a 2-8 record, they’ve lost three of their games by a single point.
“Even though Rochester is an expansion team, they’ve lost a lot of close games and we can’t underestimate them,” said general manager and head coach Patrick Merrill. “We’re looking to ride the momentum from last weekend for the next couple weeks and down the stretch.”
San Diego is riding high off a huge win over their West Division rival Calgary Roughnecks, which cemented their third place position and put them only a half point back from a playoff berth. Coincidentally, both of these teams are coming off of nail biting 13-12 victories. Rochester just beat the New York Riptide, who currently own a league lagging 1-11 record.
Even more coincidentally, the Knighthawks posted a 13-12 victory over the very same Roughnecks earlier this year. If that game is any indication, this better-than-their-record Rochester team has the potential to match up well with San Diego.
At any rate, the Seals have been on an impressive run as of late, winning four of their last five games, mostly in highly contested West Division matchups. Much of this success can be attributed to the offensive explosion of returning players like Casey Jackson (14g, 11a in 6 games) and Austin Staats, who went for a massive 5 goals and 3 assists last week against Calgary. Ask Coach Merrill, though, and there’s much more to it than just their contributions.
“A lot of the credit has to go to Josh [Sanderson] and Bill [Greer]. They have made adjustments with the offense and defense, and have tightened up our systems,” said Merrill. “I think the guys are developing good chemistry, playing with more confidence and experiencing more success. [Our assistant coaches] deserve a lot of credit.”
The Knighthawks will have their work cut out for them on Saturday night if they want to keep pace with the Seals offense. Their 136 goals allowed is the most in the North Division and the third highest in the league, behind New York (1-11) and Vancouver (4-8).
Forward Holden Cattoni is perhaps Rochester’s brightest spot thus far this season, landing just outside the top ten in offensive production across the league with 22 goals and 35 assists. Forwards Phil Caputo (14g, 11a), and Shawn Evans (14g, 29a) will also need to bring their best against this Seals defense, who have held six of their last eight opponents to 10 points or fewer.
While Rochester seems hungry to prove themselves, they have considerably less to play for in terms of postseason aspirations than their opposition. The Seals are smack-dab in the middle of the playoff mix with just seven games left to play and one wonders how that may impact the dynamics of this game. One thing is for sure, though, it would be a serious mistake on the part of San Diego to underestimate this Rochester team as they have the potential to be just as competitive as any the Seals have faced.
The game is set for 7:30 PST/ 10:30 EST at Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California and can be watched on B/R Live. For those interested in attending the game, they should know that it’s going to be a Star Wars themed ‘Wookiee of the Year’ Night at Pechanga Arena, celebrating Seals forward Austin Staats as the reigning NLL Rookie of the Year. The Seals will be wearing themed helmets and jerseys to match.