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KNIGHTHAWKS SEEK REDEMPTION
02/01/2013 - 10:18am

By Travis Larner -- The Rochester Knighthawks will be seeking redemption on Saturday, February 2nd as they host the Washington Stealth at The Blue Cross Arena in a rematch of the season opener.

Since losing 13-12 in the final minutes to the Stealth (3-2) at Comcast Arena on January 5th, the Knighthawks (0-3) have fallen to their worst start since 2009, when they began the year with four straight losses. However, no one in the Rochester locker room feels the season is in jeopardy.

“We’re 0-3, but in a couple of weeks, we could be 3-3,” said Cody Jamieson after an 11-7 loss to Toronto on January 26th. “In our dressing room, no one is hitting the panic button. It’s a long season, we’re three games in. There’s no need to write the season off. In our dressing room, we like our team. Why would we push the panic button when we know what we want and we like what we got?”
“We’re not questioning what we have in the dressing room; we’ve just got to be better,” Dan Dawson said.

According to many of the players, chemistry, not talent, is what the Knighthawks are lacking right now. Dawson knows they cannot wait much longer to turn things around.

“We have to press the issue with a little urgency,” Dawson said. “The first quarter of the season is over this weekend, and to start 0-4 is not even an option. We need to get a win. We’re working hard, but like [Head Coach Mike Hasen] said, it just comes down to execution.”

To help the team come together, practice was delayed from its usual Wednesday night until Friday. Tonight, the team with go through a full practice rather than a shootaround, and on Wednesday, the team took part in some team bonding, including games of laser tag.

“We’re just trying to change the routine up a little bit,” Hasen said. “We just need to take a little bit of a break and refresh our minds. As a group, we came together [on Wednesday night] and did a couple of fun things as a group. Then we’re going to bear down on Friday and hit each other as opposed to just shooting some balls.”

Rochester was on the losing end of two one-goal heartbreakers in the first two weeks. After the opener in Everett, Wash., the Knighthawks dropped a 14-13 decision to Buffalo in the last 12 seconds. However, in Week 4, they lost an ugly game to Toronto, scoring only one goal in the second half.

“We’ve got to learn from our mistakes,” Hasen said. “That’s one thing we talked about as a group. We got to take the lessons we learned in the first three games here and change our fortunes for moving forward against Washington.”

The Knighthawks’ defense has improved each week of the season. Against Washington in Week 1, the Stealth outshot Rochester 64-47 and forced goaltender Matt Vinc to make 51 saves. Vinc’s effort earned him the NLL’s Week 1 Defensive Player of the Week. Since then, the defense has tightened down, limiting Buffalo to 51 shots on goal and Toronto to 43. Vinc is eight saves shy of 3,500.

However, the offense took an unexpected turn with only seven goals scored against the Rock after averaging over 12 in the first two games. Rochester scored only two even strength goals against Toronto, with three coming shorthanded and two on the power play.

Dawson, a former National Lacrosse League MVP, has struggled with his new team. He has eight points (1+7) in three games, but was held pointless against the Rock. He also only has one goal on 16 shots on goal.

“We struggled in the second half of the game on Saturday, but we just haven’t executed as well as we’d like to,” Dawson said. “Obviously, we haven’t buried our chances. Our shooting percentage is very low, but it’s going to come. We’re going to shoot our way out of this one.”

“We just need to be a little bit smarter with the ball and in our shot selection and what we’re doing off-ball a little bit more,” Hasen added.

Dawson also explained that the offense needs to do a better job in the “dirty areas” of the floor. By setting harder picks and crashing into the middle of the defense, the Knighthawks can also force the opponents into more penalties and give their defense a rest while on the power play.

Offensively, Rochester was without Casey Powell, who missed the season opener with a calf injury. Powell led the Knighthawks’ offense against the Bandits with six points (2+4) the following week. He is three assists shy of 350 after surpassing the 600-point mark against Buffalo.

The game between Washington and Rochester can be seen live on the NLL on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 2nd. Fans can also listen to the game live on www.sportsradio950espn.com.


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