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11/23/2012 - 1:52pm

By Travis Larner,
(Novmber 23, 2012)... Following Thanksgiving festivities, nearly 40 players from across the United States and Canada will journey to Rochester for the opening of Knighthawks Training Camp.

The Knighthawks will kick off the 2013 preseason at Total Sports Experience in Gates, NY on Saturday, November 24th and Sunday, November 25th. The coaches and front office staff have been busy compiling a roster to compete for the 26 roster spots. Now, it will be up to them to meticulously evaluate those players during Camp.

Training Camp will be the first time the reigning National Lacrosse League Champions will reunite on the turf to prepare to defend the Champion’s Cup. In addition, it gives the team a chance to put some lesser known players to the test to see if they can contribute towards a championship repeat.

For third-year head coach Mike Hasen, scouting all of the free agent signees in addition to the five draft picks is one of the most difficult parts of his offseason duties.
“It’s going to be really tough. You add a couple veterans in Tom Montour and Casey (Powell) coming in, and Ian Llord as well. Yeah, it’s going to be real tough. The rookies that were drafted are very promising, too. It’s not going to be an easy process by any means,” said Hasen.

Although Hasen is quick to point out his team can improve in all areas of the game, nine of the newcomers are defensemen or transition players.

“We’re just looking for a little more depth on the back end and a little more character to be in the dressing room and on the floor for us. That’s the biggest think we’re looking for right now,” said Hasen.
“Every spot is open and were not looking for a specific thing, were looking for a good team guy that’s going to play a system we found to be successful the last couple years and just going to mesh well and keep us going,” he added.

The Knighthawks added former Buffalo Bandits Llord and Montour. Standing at 6-3, Llord is a presence on the floor and will make people accountable on the opposing team, according to Hasen. Montour has been a loose-ball vacuum and adds a right-handed transition player to the lineup. Both players bring “a little more grit” to the Knighthawks.

With their first two picks in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft, the Knighthawks chose Robbie Campbell and Cody Hawkins, both from Delta, BC. They will be among the five draft picks and four free agents battling for a spot on defense and in transition. Also in the mix is Cody McLeod, the last overall pick in the draft who became very familiar with the style of defense Hasen prefers while playing for the Minto Cup Champion Orangeville Northmen.

Another position battle brewing at Camp will be for the backup goaltending spot. Former Knighthawk Ben VanEvery, who played in Rochester in 2009, will be vying for Jake Henhawk’s position behind All-Pro Matt Vinc.

“I think there’s a good chance for Ben to push Jake here a bit. I think he’s got a little bit of a hunger trying to get back and earn a spot for us again. At the same time, I know Jake isn’t going to just say ‘here you go,’” said Hasen.

Perhaps the biggest piece of new coming out of Rochester for Training Camp is the return of Powell, a former NLL MVP. The four-time All-American from Syracuse is returning to Rochester, where he was selected with the first overall pick in the 1999 NLL Entry Draft. He will have to work his way into a very young but very talented group of forwards. Powell has totaled at least 80 points in his last five seasons (2007-11). It will be vital for him to find a niche in the offense alongside Cody Jamieson, Stephen Keogh, Johnny Powless and Cory Vitarelli.

“Casey is a guy that we want having the ball in his stick, but at the same time, he’s smart enough and knows when to move it and when to do the Casey things. To tell you the truth, I think it’s going to be a pretty seamless transition. We talk about character guys, and Casey is a character guy. All he wants to do is come in and play,” said Hasen.

Rochester native Joe Walters will return to the turf after his best performance of his box lacrosse career in the 2012 playoffs. He scored a career-high four assists and six points in the first round versus Philadelphia, and combined for his first consecutive multi-goal games with a 2+2 performance against Toronto. Rochester was 5-0 in home games with its hometown hero in the lineup. The next step for Walters is to earn a fulltime spot in the lineup, beginning with a good performance at Training Camp.

After tearing his ACL in a 13-7 loss to the Toronto Rock on March 24th, Jordan Hall will begin his comeback. Before his injury, Hall began working more with the defense in order to move the ball up the floor from the back end in addition to burying shots in the back of the net with the offense.

“‘Hallsy’ is going to be doing a little bit of both I think as he was doing before he got hurt. We are going to work him in slowly and we’re not going to rush him by any means. We got to make sure he is 100 percent healthy. That’s first and foremost before we start worrying about where he is going to play because when he’s healthy, he’s on the floor for us no matter what role we need him in,” said Hasen.

The top goal for Hasen in Training Camp is to improve the team across board. He wants everyone on the team to recognize that no one’s position is completely secure. He expects the free agents and rookies to challenge the veteran players as much as possible.

“Nobody is really safe. Hopefully during Camp here everybody is looking over their shoulder and that’s going to create some competition everywhere and push us all to be better,” said Hasen.

"One of the messages that we sent out to the guys now is that we really weren’t all that good last year. We got good at the right time. It’s going to be a harder process this year. It’s going to be a much tougher road to stay where we are right now. We are going to have a sense of urgency. We are going to push these guys right from the get-go.”

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