NLL: Knighthawks hand out team hardware

Matt Vinc. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

(April 21, 2018) Prior to tonight’s game, the Rochester Knighthawks held their annual Team Awards Ceremony. Goalie Matt Vinc headlined the field of winners, as he was voted the RICOH Team MVP for a record sixth time.

Behind the play of the five-time National Lacrosse League Goalie of the Year, the Knighthawks have gone 7-1 over their last eight games to move into a tie for first place in the East Division. Vinc ranks third in the NLL in save percentage (.780) and fifth in goals-against average (11.43) and saves (567). On April 13, he became only the second goalie in league history to record 7,000 career saves.

“He is a having a dynamite year statistically,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “For us, he gives a chance every night to compete and to win. The way he plays on the floor is one thing, but what he does off the floor to prepare himself, to help us win, is second to none.”

Graeme Hossack of the Rochester Knighthawks. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

Graeme Hossack, who finished second in MVP voting, was presented with his second straight IDE Family of Dealerships Defensive MVP award. The Port Perry, Ontario native currently has career highs in loose balls (137) and caused turnovers (31). The third-year pro also has a career-high six assists and 12 points this season.

Former Defensive MVP Scott Campbell put into words how vital Hossack has been to the team this season.

“He is just everywhere,” said Campbell. “He gets loose balls on must-win faceoffs; he finds a way to cause a turnover when we need the ball back, and is contributing in transition. He is doing it all for us right now.”

The Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino Offensive MVP went to a first-time winner. Veteran Joe Resetarits received that honor as he is in the midst of a career year. The sixth-year pro has posted a career-best 34 goals, 58 assists and 92 points. He is just three points away from establishing the league record for the most points in a single-season by a U.S.-born player. The Hamburg, NY native is fourth in the NLL in assists and points and is also tied for sixth in goals.

“Joe has had an excellent season,” said Knighthawks assistant coach Mike Accursi. “His consistency and effort, game-in and game-out, have been a big part of our success this year. Joe is a hard-working player who continues to get better every year. He is eager to learn and holds himself to a very high standard. His production in games is a result of his tireless work ethic during practice, in the gym, and watching film. Joe is a guy who will only get better. Captain America leads by example.”

The UR Medicine Wolf Pack Award also went to a first-time recipient, as goalie Angus Goodleaf took home the honor. “Gussy” has been stellar when called upon this season, recording an 11.38 goals-against average and a .798 save percentage. On March 31, he posted a 31-save effort to help the Knighthawks rally to beat the Colorado Mammoth, 16-14.

“He’s ‘Gus;’ it’s that simple,” said defenseman Ian Llord. “He does everything without a complaint. Every year I have played with him, he has improved himself.”

Jake Withers of the Rochester Knighthawks. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

One of the closest races this year was for Rookie of the Year, which was brought to you by ISAAC Heating & Air Conditioning. With all three first-round picks among the best first-year players in the league, it was Jake Withers who edged Austin Shanks and Eric Fannell. On April 13, Withers set the NLL rookie faceoff record, and the team single-season faceoff wins mark. The former second overall pick has 243 faceoff wins and leads the NLL with a .666 faceoff winning percentage. Withers is also tied for first on the team with 137 loose balls.

“I think what makes Jake such an impact player as a rookie is that he’s an excellent defender and an elite faceoff guy,” said Knighthawks head scout Stuart Brown. “He likes to play the game hard and physical and can control our runs with his dominant faceoff play.”

The Connors & Ferris Community Service Award was given to defenseman/transition man Brad Gillies. The third-year pro won the award for the second straight season after expanding the organization’s community programs and Knighthawks Academy. Working alongside Digital/Social Media Coordinator Charlie Ragusa, the duo established the Knighthawks’ first two box lacrosse tournaments this past year and saw an increase in the popularity of the Jr. Knighthawks’ program. On the community side, Gillies has served as the spokesperson for the team’s Healthy Hawks, Anti-Bullying and Lacrosse 101 initiatives.

Gillies also mentored rookies like Shanks, Withers and Eric Fannell, and introduced them to the Rochester community.

“Gillies helped us get out there and give back to the city,” said Withers. “He’s been kind of like a boss to us, and he’s always the guy that we can go to for advice.”

The final presentation was for the Seventh Man Award, presented by The Distillery. This recipient is a multiple-time winner, and deservedly so. Dave Sowden puts in long hours before and after games, taking care of the team’s gear and well-being. The team’s assistant athletic trainer and equipment manager was named the winner of the award for the third time in the past four years.

“He does everything behind the scenes which helps us as athletes to just go out and play,” said defenseman Paul Dawson. “He stays late, cleans up after us, does our laundry, gets us food before games, and never asks for anything in return. Genuinely, he is a great guy who cares.”