NLL: New-look Knighthawks fall hard in opener

Rochester Knighthawks v Georgia Swarm, November 30, 2019 (Photo By Micheline V/ Rochester Knighthawks)

At the end of last season, owner Curt Styres moved the teal and purple Knighthawks and their five championships to Halifax. But thanks to Terry and Kim Pegula, lacrosse stayed in the city of Rochester.

With some familiar faces, new uniform colors and a new turf the Rochester Knighthawks (0-1) opened up their 2019-20 inaugural season falling to the Georgia Swarm (1-0) 14-4 in front of 5,642 fans at Blue Cross Arena.

Miles and Lyle Thompson (7G/5A) and Shayne Jackson (3G/4A) led the Swarm onslaught on what was opening night for both teams. Seven players total scored for the Swarm in their victory.

On the defensive side of the ball the Swarm kept the Knighthawks’ offense to the outside allowing goalie Mike Poulin to see every shot.

“They did a fantastic job,” Poulin said about the Swarm defense. “They made my job a lot easier tonight. They soaked shots, they dictated the pace of play, they put them (the Knighthawks) into situations that made them uncomfortable.”

Georgia controlled the game from the start opening a quick three-goal lead before Dan Lintner would score the new Knighthawks’ franchise’s first goal on the power play. That would be the last goal they would score as the Swarm defense kept them off the sheet for 36:17. The Knighthawks’ special teams were invisible going 2-7 on the power play while giving up two shorties, and when killing a penalty there was no success as Georgia would capitalize on all three chances.

“Getting in shooting lanes is something we really talked about a lot in training camp and really limiting not only the quantity of shots but the quality of shots,” said coach Swarm head coach Ed Comeau at his post-game press conference. “If we’re in shooting lanes, we’re going to soak some shots, and our guys did a great job of that. Credit to those guys – it’s not easy to stand out there and get hit by a ball without goalie pads on, but they made those sacrifices, and we got the win.”

Rochester seemed to play better on defense in the second half only allowing the Swarm to score twice. Craig Wende made his first NLL start and made some acrobatic saves in the third to limit the Swarm goals. Wende stopped 44 shots on the night.

Phil Caputo would end the scoreless streak scoring on the power play with one second to go in the third quarter.

Lyle Thompson, who scored four on the night, recorded his hat trick goal on a penalty shot and his fourth came shorthanded as he and Shayne Jackson recorded seven points each on the night.

Poulin was taken from the game with 9:10 to go in the game after stopping 36 shots and recording a career high .947 save percentage and a 2.36 goals against.

The Swarm are off until Saturday, December 14 at 7 p.m. when they host the Philadelphia Wings.

“Philly’s made a lot of changes from last year, and that was a team that lost a lot of close games,” Comeau concluded. “So, we expect them to come in ready to compete and much improved. A divisional game for us, so really big.”

The Knighthawks return to action December 21st as they travel to face the Halifax Thunderbirds – no doubt a bit of extra incentive for the new Knighthawks to make a statement.