The Rochester Knighthawks were hoping they could pick up right where they left off last season. It hasn’t worked out that way, but they are showing signs of life now.
The Knighthawks had a stunning playoff run in 2012, capped by a victory in the championship game at home against Edmonton. When Rochester added such players as Dan Dawson and Casey Powell in the offseason, the Knighthawks looked even more loaded for 2013.
Yet turning potential into performance at the start of the season turned to be a difficult assignment for Knighthawks.
They opened the season with three straight losses to land in the basement of the National Lacrosse League’s East Division standings. That included a loss to Buffalo in the home opener, as the Bandits spoiled the banner-raising party at Blue Cross Arena.
Was it a matter of having a bull’s-eye on their backs because of the title, or an adjustment period while waiting for the talent to mix together?
Neither, according to coach Mike Hasen.
“This league is ultra-competitive,” he said. “The parity is unbelievable. This year has been a bit of an adjustment for everyone, as the players have had to get used to each other. But mostly, that’s the way this league goes. It’s a roller-coaster. You get your ups and downs and ride the wave when it happens.”
The Knighthawks had a rare back-to-back pair of games on the schedule this weekend, starting with a game in Philadelphia on Friday morning that they won. Rochester couldn’t fly to Buffalo because of the winter storm, so the Knighthawks hopped on a bus and drove here. The team reportedly arrived in Buffalo around midnight, and had a chance to bond a bit as a team.
“It was the best case in a worst-case scenario,” Hasen said. “The boys had fun on the way back.”
“It was good to spend time together,” goalie Matt Vinc said. “We’ve got some new faces on the team, so we gelled a bit as a unit. Our owner treats us well; we had some meals on the trip.”
Rochester reached the .500 mark with Saturday’s win, and have climbed ahead of Philadelphia and into a tie with Buffalo in the National Lacrosse League’s East Division standings. Since Toronto lost Friday night, the Knighthawks gained ground on every one of their divisional foes this week.
It was a helpless night for Bandits’ forward John Tavares. He sat through one of the worst home losses in team history, and he couldn’t do anything about it.
Tavares was placed on the injured reserve list before the game, as he nurses a calf injury.
“I actually got to chat with Johnny after the game,” teammate Shawn Williams said. “It’s tough on him to watch that.”
Tavares will have to sit for one more game before he is eligible to return to play. In the meantime, the Bandits certainly missed him in Saturday’s loss ... but coach Darris Kilgour knew that wasn’t the biggest problem with his team.
“Johnny’s not going to take 50 shots. He’s not a seven-goal guy, at least any more,” Kilgour said.
An official’s mistake caused some confusion at one point of the second half. A delayed penalty was called on Rochester, and goalie Anthony Cosmo ran off the field. Then play was stopped, and no penalty was called. It turned out that a player was on the field without a chin cup, which isn’t allowed but is not a penalty.
“The referee told me it was his fault,” Cosmo said.
Saturday’s game was “Native American Night,” and as part of the ceremonies the Bandits presented Caitlin Snyder of the Seneca National Wolf Clan with a $1,000 scholarship. Snyder graduated from Syracuse in 2010, and is currently working toward a Master of Science in Counselor Education at Canisius College.