The first game of the regular season is in Rochester as the Knighthawks will look to find a way back to the post season and the Toronto Rock debut their new roster. Both teams have plenty of changes, and this will be the first look at both of them in regular season action head-to-head.
For the Knighthawks, they’ll spend most of the season without former MVP Cody Jamieson. In his place? Three rookies, Tyler Ferriera out of Buffalo Bandits camp, and a potential breakout chance for Joel Matthews, who might see some action out of both doors to open the season.
Joe Walters will also miss the entire season after choosing to instead play with the New York Lizards of Major League Lacrosse full time. That leaves the KHawks without two key pieces in their threepeat championship run.
Jarrett Davis making his return to the roster adds to the veteran presence, but the likes of Dan Lomas, Kyle Jackson, and Josh Currier are going to get their shot to make things happen for the Knighthawks offense. Jackson had 13 pre season points to lead the Knighthawks. The Hawks also signed free agent Wayne Van Every, a 27 year old rookie, who might get some floor time as Rochester figures out its identity without Jamieson.
Graeme Hossack is back on the defense after a stellar rookie campaign and could be an early favorite for defender of the year. He will help fill the shoes of Mike Kirk, who retired in the off season. In fact, a lot of that D corps is gone with Scott and Brad Self, and Jon Sullivan all moving on. Luc Magnon, who was signed during camp, is also going to get a shot at some defensive reps as the Knighthawks piece it together.
Matt Vinc in the crease gives Rochester plenty of stability, even with an aching defense that started to show some holes last season, and that group will face a different Rock offense than they’ve ever seen before.
Gone are the days of Colin Doyle and Josh Sanderson, and even breakout star Rob Hellyer is out for the season with an ACL injury, and Kevin Ross was traded before the pre season began. That has opened the door for one of the most talked about stories in the NLL pre season with the additions of three American players who have had success in MLL.
This past season’s MLL MVP Tom Schrieber, former rookie of the year Kieran McArdle, and Connor Buczek are set to make their regular season debuts after earning roster spots in training camp. The regular season is a different animal, and this will be their first time on an NLL carpet when the game means something.
Facing up against Vinc in that first contest is a challenge in itself, but it should give the Rock some early answers about what they have.
Toronto, historically a veteran team built mostly off of Ontario talent, will also debut two rookies in Latrell Harris and Challen Rogers. Rogers had a terrific summer season playing box and made a name for himself in the MLL ranks as well with the Boston Cannons. Harris has found himself in the right place at the right time as a second round draft pick making a roster that desperately needs some youth.
The Rock will rely on Nick Rose in net to start the season while his tandem partner, Brandon Miller, is sidelined on injured reserve. The Rock’s key concern is goal scoring, however, with a league low total last season. After an 0-6 start to 2016, the Rock will be looking to come out of the gate hot in the opener against Rochester to get on track early.