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12/08/2013 - 11:03pm

By Andrea Chevalier - The Rochester Knighthawks played their first of three preseason games on Saturday night in front of 10,782 energized fans at The Blue Cross Arena. The back-to-back National Lacrosse League champs rallied to tie the contest with 11 seconds to play, but fell 16-15 to the Minnesota Swarm.

The night began with the NLL Hall of Fame induction ceremony for former Knighthawks goalie Pat O’Toole. O’Toole, who played 16 seasons in the NLL, was the only player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, making the event even more special for the Knighthawks. Former Knighthawks players Mike Hasen, Paul Gait, and Shawn Williams spoke at the ceremony about their time playing with O’Toole and his well-deserved award. He is the fifth goaltender in the NLL to be inducted. 

O’Toole, now the goaltending coach for the Knighthawks, is still proving his worth through goalie Matt Vinc. Vinc started in goal for the first half of the preseason game, only allowing five goals in for the first half of the game. 

During the second half, the rookies were integrated more in the game and were given their first taste of what playing in the NLL is like. 2013 draft pick Brandon Styres played in goal for the third quarter and Ian Duffy played in goal for the fourth quarter. Both netminders allowed five goals. 

“Tonight, it was the rookies’ opportunity to show us what they can do and if they can play in the league. For the most part, we got answers,” said Knighthawks Head Coach Mike Hasen.

The Knighthawks were led by veteran forward Craig Point, who notched six goals and three assists.  

“I was just trying to do my team a favor. I have been working out a lot during the offseason and I was able to perform on the floor and not get too tired,” said Point.   

The game was a first for every player on the Knighthawks’ roster as they played with 16 runners and two goalies, which was established by the new collective bargaining agreement.

“It’s different now with the amount of runners, but every player on our team is good. No matter who plays and who doesn’t, every guy is able,” said Knighthawks forward Cory Vitarelli, who had two goals and three assists in the game.  

Johnny Powless’s thrilling game-tying goal with 11 seconds left in the game had the crowd roaring, but with just two seconds left, Minnesota’s Scott Jones scored, making the final a 16-15 loss for the Knighthawks.

“We’re not happy with the outcome, but we have a lot of new guy’s feet out there for the very first time. We have a few more practices and two exhibition games before the season opener and we’ll iron it out. We’ll get better,” said Hasen.  

The Knighthawks continue their preseason schedule on Saturday, December 14th where they will face the Toronto Rock at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre at 7:00 p.m. The team will close the preseason on Sunday, December 15th at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena where they will face the Calgary Roughnecks at 11:00 a.m. 

The back-to-back champions will open their 20th season on Saturday, December 28th at The Blue Cross Arena in a game against Minnesota. Game time is at 7:30 p.m. where the Knighthawks will raise the 2013 NLL Championship banner. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Rochester Knighthawks office at (585) 454-4295.



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