The Rochester Knighthawks opened training camp this past weekend ahead of the 2023-24 NLL season.
Thirty-six players, including three goalies, hit the turf at Blue Cross Arena for two practice sessions on Saturday before an intrasquad scrimmage on Sunday. This group will eventually need to be cut down to a 20-man active roster, with up to four practice players, so as glad as everyone is to be back playing lacrosse, competition is tight.
“Camp was very good,” said head coach Mike Hasen. “Really high paced, really competitive. Guys came prepared to work which was great to see.”
One of the players hoping to earn a roster spot is 2022 first-round draft pick Thomas McConvey, who spent the last year finishing school at the University of Virginia after spending four years at Vermont.
“There was a little bit of a difference for him, not playing box for a few years now,” said Hasen. “The last time he played was in junior but he looked good out there. There are some things he has to get used to, especially getting that chemistry with teammates. That’s the biggest thing that will come with time together as a group.”
Thomas McConvey, drafted first overall in 2022, poses with NLL Commissioner Brett Frood after being drafted.
“I had a great first weekend at training camp,” McConvey expressed. “Being welcomed with open arms and getting to know the guys was an awesome experience. Getting back on the floor and starting to build toward the regular season was a lot of fun. I am excited to continue and grow toward the season.”
McConvey will be part of a committee that the Knighthawks will be counting on to put the ball in the net.
The other members of that committee? The entire rest of the offense.
The Knighthawks finished in fourth place in the East Conference last season, falling to Buffalo in the quarterfinals, though for much of the season they challenged for the top spot.
They made two significant trades this summer, sending Holden Cattoni to the Philadelphia Wings for Hunter Lemieux, and then made a draft-day deal sending Thomas Hoggarth and Thomas Vela to Calgary for Kyle Waters. Cattoni and Hoggarth finished second and fifth in team scoring, respectively, in 2022-23, so the Knighthawks need players who can help make up their 138 points.
“It’s 100% going to be scoring by committee,” Hasen said. “You can’t replace two players like that and we don’t want to put the pressure on one or two guys to have to step up and replace them.”
In addition to McConvey and Waters, new faces include Dan Lomas, acquired via trade, and Stephen Keogh, signed as a free agent. But Hasen says his veterans need to step up, too.
“[The new guys will] have an impact obviously but at the same time, Turner Evans is going to have to have a better year, Austin Hasen is going to have to have a better year for us. Ryan Smith had a good year; he’s going to have to have another one if not a bit better. Curtis Knight, he’s one I point to as far as examples are concerned, but we’d like to have a little bit more offensive punch out of his stick as well. But saying that, it’s not on one guy, it’s on all of us.”
The new faces met the veteran faces on Friday night at Blue Cross Arena, where the team underwent their physicals before a bonding event at the Rochester Americans (AHL) game.
Saturday morning the team gathered for media day, which included new headshots and fun videos, before a short practice and a “friendly shooting competition.”
“I won’t tell you who won because I didn’t want him to win,” laughed third-year defenseman Mitch Ogilvie.
Saturday night featured a higher-tempo practice with more running and more physicality, Ogilvie described. Sunday the team worked on more situational things like transition opportunities and special teams.
The team will next practice at Brampton’s Memorial Arena, with the Greater Toronto Area a central location for many team members.
“Brampton is nice because it allows us to have mid-week practices which break up the week a little,” said Ogilvie. “It keeps us in lacrosse mode. That rink is a little bit smaller so it’s a little bit faster which helps us make decisions quicker.”
Blue Cross Arena is home, said Hasen, but practicing in Brampton is also beneficial.
“Blue Cross Arena gets us comfortable. For the young guys to come on the floor and see the possibilities is great. Brampton allows us to get together during the week. We can get together on Tuesday nights and we can get that consistency rolling and… make sure they keep that accountability amongst themselves.”
The Knighthawks’ first test against an opponent will be on November 12 when they scrimmage with the Buffalo Bandits at Keybank Center. They’ll also scrimmage against Georgia and New York before their home opener on December 2 vs. Calgary.
Find their full training camp roster and schedule here.
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