Knighthawks Down Thunderbirds at Home
ROCHESTER, N.Y. --- The Rochester Knighthawks defeated the Halifax Thunderbirds 16-14 on Saturday night. It was a big fourth quarter push from Halifax but Rochester proved to have scored enough to hold out. This one was personal as it was the first win in franchise history over the Thunderbirds. Not to mention that just five years ago the Halifax Thunderbirds were the Rochester Knighthawks before their relocation.
"It's nice... but the other thing too is for me personally it's great but for guys in our group, it's just another game." - Rochester Head Coach Mike Hasen on how it felt to beat Halifax
The Knighthawks had multiple dominant and milestone performances on the night. Connor Fields scored eight points, four goals and four assists. That put his season total at 28, he now leads the NLL in goals and holds The Knighthawks single season goal record only halfway through the year. Holden Cattoni notched seven points on the evening with a hat trick and four assists. Ryan Smith scored his 100th career point at the end of the second quarter. Thomas Vela scored his first and second career NLL goals, the first was shorthanded one on one with Warren Hill. Rylan Hartley posted a full 60 minutes between the sticks for the first time since the Bandits came to Rochester, he had 40 saves on the night.
As the game began it was quite obvious that it would be decided in the transition game, possession change after possession change came in between the restraining lines. Halifax opened the scoring a few minutes into the quarter and for a short period at the start Rochester appeared in a similar flow to that of their last two games, they couldn't find the back of the net. That all shifted as Rochester went onto their first power play of the game, on their second possession it was Ryan Smith from the point to open things for the Hawks. That seemed to flip the switch they needed as following Smith's goal Rochester made it a three goal run with Fields and Vela both getting onto the board moments later.
Chris Boushy scored one for the Thunderbirds and created an even momentum swing that led to a 3-3 split over the next ten minutes into the second quarter. The moment things changed was when Halifax face-off specialist Jake Withers crashed the net and dove directly into Rylan Hartley. Tyler Biles immediately jumped on top of Withers and took him away from Hartley and a partial line scrum ensued. Withers was ejected and the pregame fears revolving around the face-off dot started to dissipate.
Rochester put in another three goal run before the end of the quarter, the first came from Thomas Vela on the ensuing four on four play, he went five hole on Hill. Just a minute after, Rochester was on the power play due to Withers' Major and Biles' minor penalties. With a desperation shot on an almost expiring shot clock, Connor Fields hit the second Knighthawks power play goal from almost the restraining line. Rochester's third goal of the run was wild. A loose ball behind the net was found and passed between Ryan Smith and Curtis Knight and dumped in front to Holden Cattoni while Hill was partially out of net, he had a wide open shot. Rochester carried a 9-5 lead into the half.
As the second half ensued, Halifax started to fight back, scoring the first two goals of the third quarter. Just twenty seconds after though, Connor Fields finished his hat trick. A few moments after that Thomas Hoggarth scored his first goal of the night and Rochester had restored their four goal lead. 30 seconds after Hoggarth's goal Eric Fannell found the back the net for Halifax. To top off that set, 30 seconds after that Ryan Smith found the back of the net and another minute later Brad Gillies scored against his former team on the fast break. Rochester led 13-8 at the end of the third quarter.
Eric Fannell opened the fourth quarter scoring with the completion of his hat trick. That led to a three goal run by the Knighthawks, the first was to finish Cattoni's hat trick. The second was from Matt Gilray, making three defenders to notch goals on the night. The third was Connor Fields record breaking goal, putting him at 28 on the season, putting him at the lead of the league. With that run, Rochester got to 16 goals and the momentum completely shifted.
Down by seven with about five minutes left to play, Halifax started to work some magic, their first goal came at the 4:02 mark, the second just 40 seconds later, the third came at the 2:01 mark and the time seemed to be running off the clock faster than the Thunderbirds were scoring. They notched two more in the closing minutes and Rochester proved to hold on to the win at 16-14.
With the win Rochester moves into a three way tie for first place with Toronto and Buffalo. They will move into a bye week before taking on Jeff Teat and The New York Riptide at Home on February 25th.