The Halifax Thunderbirds beat the undefeated Rochester Knighthawks 17-7 on Friday night at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax. With 17 goals, many Thunderbirds had big nights, but stealing the show was rookie Wake:Riat BowHunter. The son of team owner Curt Styres scored his first career hat trick on four shots.
“It means a lot, it wouldn’t happen without my teammates getting me open and passing me the ball so shout out to all the guys passing me the ball tonight, and it’s just awesome to score my first hat trick at home,” said BowHunter.
It was almost fate for BowHunter. This game was a part of the NLL’s Every Child Matters initiative, honouring the children who died in Residential Schools. BowHunter’s grandmother, Vera Styres, was a Residential School survivor and passed away a year ago. Her name was on the floor during the game, possibly giving him some extra luck.
BowHunter now has six goals and nine points five games into his NLL career and is providing solid secondary scoring for the Thunderbirds. He credits Cody Jamieson and Ryan Benesch for helping him feel comfortable.
“I think I’m still growing and learning every game. I’m still making rookie mistakes, but I also have great leadership to show me what’s right and what’s wrong,” said BowHunter. “They’re keeping me positive, telling me shots will come when it’s hard and saying to focus on getting someone else open when you’re having a bad game.”
Coming into the game, the Thunderbirds were looking to get back on track after losing three of their last four games. It was a big task having to do that against the undefeated Rochester Knighthawks, but they prevailed. The offence was spectacular with 17 goals, but a big key to victory was limiting the highest scoring team in the league to seven goals. Connor Fields has been leading the charge for Rochester; he was fourth in league scoring coming into the game, and Halifax limited him to two goals.
“We wanted to really frustrate him,” said defenceman Ryan Terefenko. “I think a lot of teams were laying off and playing a little bit softer, and our philosophy was to get out and get on his hands and make sure he was not the one scoring the goals today.”
Both teams traded goals to start the game. Turner Evans and Fields scored for Rochester, while BowHunter and Austin Shanks scored for Halifax to make the score 2-2 seven minutes in.
Then Halifax took over.
Terefenko started the onslaught for Halifax. He grabbed a rebound in the defensive zone and took off down the floor, outrunning the Knighthawks’ defenders and scoring on a breakaway.
Terefenko was effective all game for Halifax. He scored a goal and two assists and picked up a game-high 15 loose balls.
“I’m just getting more comfortable with the game and the coaching staff having more trust in me,” said Terefenko. “I know I have the green light when those opportunities come about, and it’s just about not hesitating.”
Terefenko came into the NLL last year with primarily field lacrosse experience, but his athleticism and tenacity quickly found him as a regular on defence. He scored seven points in 14 games last year, and he has eight points in seven games this year.
“Last year, I felt my head was spinning a little bit, this year I’m starting to slow down, and you can see it on the transition plays and a little bit on the defensive end,” he said. “The game is just slowing down for me, which is making it easier for me. I can kinda anticipate instead of reacting to what the opposing team is doing.”
After Terefenko’s goal, Clarke Petterson managed to dodge and spin his way around a defender and found Ryan Benesch in the slot to score. Jake Withers also scored to give Halifax three goals within a minute to break open the score to 5-2.
They didn’t let up in the second quarter. Four minutes in, Eric Fannell scored and assisted on Cody Jamieson’s goal, while Austin Shanks also buried one to put Halifax up 8-2.
However, Rochester slowly picked away at the lead. Jordan Strouros made an excellent pick to give Holden Cattoni lots of space at the top of the horseshoe, and he fired it past Hill. Cattoni scored two more, and Fields added another. Former Thunderbird Brad Gillies also potted one to make the score 8-6. Chris Boushy scored to stop the run and give Halifax a 9-6 lead going into the fourth.
The Knighthawks could have tied the game in the third quarter if it wasn’t for Warren Hill. He made several fantastic saves off breakaways, dunk attempts, slot shots and stretching-out pad saves. He stopped 43 out of 50 shots in the game.
“Warren really stood on his head on a couple of those shots,” said Terefenko.
Austin Shanks broke open the scoring in the fourth quarter with his hat trick goal to give Halifax a 10-6 lead, but the Thunderbirds were just getting started.
Three minutes after his goal, Shanks found Graeme Hossack running unchecked down the floor, and he scored. BowHunter and Petterson also scored along with two from Boushy to see Halifax put in six goals in the first seven minutes of the quarter. Rochester’s Holden Cattoni completed his hat trick in the middle of that run.
“That’s just us; we got eight guys out there that are really freaking good at lacrosse. And if you get the ball in their stick enough and you let them do what they need to do, they will score goals,” said Terefenko.
After Halifax’s fourth goal in the quarter, Rochester pulled Rylan Hartley. As he was walking to his bench he got into a shoving match with players on Halifax’s’ bench and was ejected from the game. About six minutes later, Johnny Pearson hit Tyler Biles near the bench, and they both dropped the gloves.
Two rookies finished off the scoring in the game. BowHunter received a pass in the slot and rifled it for his hat trick goal. With thirty seconds left in the game, Max Wilson scored his first career goal on a penalty shot.
The Thunderbirds are back at home on Saturday when they take on the Calgary Roughnecks, while the Knighthawks look to get back into the win column also on Saturday when they visit the Buffalo Bandits. They’ll get another shot at the Thunderbirds on Feb. 11 at home.