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Knighthawks preseason finale tonight

ROCHESTER, N.Y. --- The Rochester Knighthawks are getting prepped at Blue Cross Arena for their final preseason game of the year against the New York Riptide. The Knighthawks are 2-0 so far in the preseason after defeating the Buffalo Bandits and the Georgia Swarm in the previous weeks. Many new faces have found their way to Rochester for the 2023-24 season along with some major departures. The Knighthawks are officially one week away from their season opener against the Calgary Roughnecks with one more chance to smooth things out before the season.

the opening huddle at morning shoot around Photo credit: Chamberlain Bauder, 89.1 The Point

Leadership

As the Knighthawks went through training camp they were without a voice that has been there since new era inception. Captain Paul Dawson left the Hawks in free agency last summer. The 38 year old has been in the league since 2006 and was a big driver of the culture for Rochester.

Head coach Mike Hasen at morning shoot around Photo credit: Chamberlain Bauder, 89.1 The Point

"Danny (Coates) has always been vocal and needs to be and without Paul (Dawson) being here he's taken a bigger role," Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen said about Coates stepping up in Dawson's exit. "But at the same time, Rees has stepped up and been a bigger voice. It has been the group there and even Hutchcraft and Hartley, they've been stepping up and being a bit more vocal. Coatesy has been really good, he's that veteran guy that's been there done that but it's the entire group taking that next step. I think that's what's more promising and good for us at this point."


Coates brings prior experience as a captain to the Knighthawks, he was a four year captain in Colorado before going to Georgia for the canceled 2020 season. in 2021 the Knighthawks signed him in free agency and he has been a voice on the defense ever since.

Dan Coates at morning shoot around Photo credit: Chamberlain Bauder, 89.1 The Point

"Coatesy has stepped up into that role in the loss of Paul," Hartley said. "He's been a guy that GMs, coaches and players look up to and they believe in. When he's in that room preaching something you just stop listen and you soak it in. Coatesy is also a guy that doesn't just say something and expect you to do it, he says it then he does it."


While Coates has taken the vocal duties of the captaincy, it still is yet to be announced who will wear the C for Rochester. That announcement will likely come before their season opener.


The Offense

Rochester's offense looks significantly different from last season. not only on the bench but also in the coaching room. Kyle Kallay took over the offensive coaching duties this year as Gavin Prout left the team in the summer. He was key even last year for the Knighthawks offensive success.

Coach Kallay talking with the offense at morning shoot around Photo credit: Chamberlain Bauder, 89.1 The Point

"He's been taking this offense and running with it since day one," Connor Fields said about Kallay taking full control of the offense for the 23-24 season. "Small tweaks spacing wise and where to be at certain points. I think you see even in games if he draws up a play it's usually open."


Fields was the centerpiece to a franchise record setting offense last year. He notched 52 goals, placing him second in the league. He also led all forwards with 142 loose ball recoveries. Last season he played with Holden Cattoni and Turner Evans on the lefty side. With Cattoni's trade away in the offseason there will be more shots for Fields as well as more space from shooting positions.

Connor Fields going for a breakaway pass at morning shoot around Photo credit: Chamberlain Bauder, 89.1 The Point

The lefty room has seen the most change over the course of the offseason. Not only did Cattoni depart but the Knighthawks added two NLL starters in Steven Keogh and Dan Lomas as well as the number one overall pick from last year's draft in Thomas McConvey. all three players bring more off ball play than Cattoni and will potentially change the identity of the Rochester offense.


McConvey has been a clear bright spot through the Knighthawks camp. The rookie has not looked like one as he is just as lethal with or without the ball in his stick. his size is something Rochester didn't have from a lefty last year. at 6'4 and 210 pounds the forward can bang inside or use his shot.

Thomas McConvey at morning shoot around Photo credit: Chamberlain Bauder, 89.1 The Point

"Since he's stepped foot in that locker room he's felt like family to everyone but on the floor he just brings such a presence," Fields said about the rookie. "Defenses are gonna have to keep an eye on him on or off ball. He's got a great scoring touch, he's got great vision and he can create offense with the ball and he can create it without."


The Knighthawks saw changes to the righty side as well. Thomas Hoggarth was traded on draft day for the 16th overall pick and Kyle Waters. The rest of the group remains mostly the same with Ryan Smith, Curtis Knight and Austin Hasen filling out the righty spots. Smith enters his third year with the Knighthawks stepping into the top righty roll. He was at the draft when the Hoggarth trade occurred

"It's mixed emotion losing guys like that," Smith said about the Hoggarth trade. "But you have to move onto the next year and start building that chemistry. Playing with Waters, he's a massive body and he doesn't need the ball in his stick but if he has the ball in his stick he's very good as well."


The Rochester offense definitely looks different from last year. With that said the chemistry seems much higher. At times last year the Hawks offense would stall, often from too much chaos in the middle of the field or separation in play. this season the Rochester offense looks more cohesive and prepared to play the two man game, something that could majorly open up Fields game.

Fields passing to the crease at morning shoot around Photo credit: Chamberlain Bauder, 89.1 The Point

"I think we got a lot bigger throughout our offense," Fields said. "A lot of bodies have been moving which throws the defense off and I think it's gonna play well to how fast we've been playing."


The Goalies

In goal the Knighthawks have the same pair as last year. Hartley broke out as one of the best goalies in the league last season. The cat-like net minder spent his summer coaching in Orangeville and came back feeling ready to be more of a leader this season. He and backup Riley Hutchcraft have been able to help each other grow as they enter their second season together.

Rylan Hartley at morning shoot around Photo credit: Chamberlain Bauder, 89.1 The Point

"I'm coming out of my younger shell," Hartley said about stepping up this season. "I'm a pretty superstitious guy and I like to stick to things that I've found have worked. Having Riley Hutchcraft come here has been a massive part of myself opening up. He's exposed me to things I've never seen from his perspective. He's a great X and Os guy and I'm just tunnel vision when I play. So sitting down with Hutch and him showing me on the iPad and explaining things and how systems are working has opened myself up to a whole other level of the game."

Riley Hutchcraft against Fields at morning shoot around Photo credit: Chamberlain Bauder, 89.1 The Point

Hartley was snubbed from the preseason NLL rankings but ranked third in saves last year. His impact could be the biggest on the team.


First face off is at 7pm against the New York Riptide. The last time they came to Blue Cross Arena it was the second longest game in NLL history. That likely won't be the case for tonight but instead, final lessons for each team before the regular season.

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