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01/03/2013 - 4:37pm

By Travis Larner, Knighthawks beat writer for -- 
Rochester visits Washington to open 2013 NLL regular season

The New Year’s resolution for the Rochester Knighthawks can summed up with one word: repeat. The reigning National Lacrosse League champions will begin their title defense on the road on Saturday, Jan. 5 at 10:00 p.m. ET against the Washington Stealth at the Comcast Arena in Everett to open the 2013 NLL regular season.

Fans can watch the season opener and the rest of the games all season long on the NLL on YouTube on The Lacrosse Network by clicking here. Listen to the game online on Sportsradio 950 ESPN, also airing locally in Rochester, by clicking here.

Getting off to a fast start will be a priority for the Knighthawks in 2013, rather coming together at the end of the season like they did last year. Rochester’s first-quarter goal total was the lowest in the league (36), but their second-half total was the highest (112). In seven of their nine losses, the Knighthawks trailed at halftime, and they were tied at intermission during the other two.

One might think a general manager would be satisfied with his roster after taking home the crown, but not Curt Styres. The Knighthawks owner and GM pulled off two of the league’s biggest offseason acquisitions by bringing in two former NLL Most Valuable Players in Casey Powell and Dan Dawson.

After sitting out last season, Powell signed a one-year deal this offseason to return to Rochester where he made his professional indoor debut in 1999. Powell has scored at least 80 points in each of his last five seasons. In 2010, he became the first American-born player to be named the league’s MVP, scoring 80 points (44+36) in only 14 games. Powell is now just five points away from reaching 600 for his career, which he very well may achieve against the Stealth this weekend. In his first NLL game in over a year, Powell netted two goals in Rochester’s preseason victory over the Minnesota Swarm on Dec. 8.

In a blockbuster trade involving six players and two first-round draft picks, the Knighthawks acquired 6-foot-5 brothers Dan and Paul Dawson. Dan Dawson uses his height to his advantage to see the floor and has excelled at feeding his teammates the ball throughout his career. He finished second in the league with 78 assists, a career-high which is second-most in a single season in NLL history. Dawson also won a league MVP award back in 2009 when he scored 104 points (30+74).

Adding Dawson and Powell to the right side of the Knighthawks offense will take pressure off of Cody Jamieson on the opposite side, but some are concerned there will not be enough ball to go around for all three when considering secondary scorers Mike Accursi, Stephen Keogh, Craig Point, Johnny Powless, Cory Vitarelli and Joe Walters. Saturday’s contest marks the first time that Dawson, Jamieson and Powell will all be on the floor at the same time.

The Rochester defense will be without Ryan Cousins, Kyle Laverty and former NLL Defensive Player of the Year Pat McCready. Cousins will begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform List for the second straight season, Laverty is currently on the holdout list and McCready has unofficially retired after 17 years.

The remainder of the championship defense—Tyler Burton, Scott Campbell, Dylan Evans, Rory Glaves, Mike Kirk, Brad Self and Sid Smith— are returning along with the gritty defender Paul Dawson and transition players Joel McCready and Matt Hummel.

Washington’s main scoring threats all saw a decline in production in 2012 as the Stealth finished with a dismal 4-12 record. After two consecutive 90-point seasons in 2010 and 2011, Washington’s Lewis Ratcliff failed to reach 80 points last year. Stealth forward Rhys Duch finished last season with the lowest point total of his four-year career while teammate Athan Iannucci hasn’t scored more than 29 goals since he set the league record with 71 in 2008.

Last season, the Knighthawks defeated the Stealth by a score of 15-12 on Feb. 18 at Blue Cross Arena. Despite a four-goal performance from both Duch and Ratcliff, Rochester stormed back with a seven-goal fourth quarter, led by Accursi and Point who had five points each (3+2). Faceoff specialist Bob Snider won 84% of his draws, an area Rochester has struggled with over the past few seasons.


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