Knighthawks Answer Latest Test, Beat Bandits to Stay No. 1

PHOTO COURTESY OF ROCHESTER KNIGHTHAWKS / NLL

Connor Fields had eight points in a 15-12 win over the Bandits.


An old National Lacrosse League rivalry was reignited this weekend when the Rochester Knighthawks proved the second iteration of the franchise can finally hang with the Bandits. Out west, a new rivalry was potentially born as tempers flared in a near miraculous comeback effort for the Las Vegas Desert Dogs against Vancouver.

Some teams are already one third of the way through the regular season. Has a favorite for the NLL Cup emerged?

1. ROCHESTER KNIGHTHAWKS (6-0)

The Knighthawks made sure to call out anyone who questioned their status atop the league after besting the Bandits on Friday night 15-12. It was fair to question their resume. Outside of Toronto, all their wins coming into the weekend came against middling to worse teams, but it gets more difficult by the week. In its latest outing, Rochester scored five straight to open the fourth quester to erase a one-goal deficit. Ryan Smith had nine points and Connor Fields added eight in the 2.0 K-Hawks’ first-ever win against their rivals to the west. Last week: 1

2. SAN DIEGO SEALS (4-1)

With all the top contenders in the West sitting out this week, the Seals remain alone atop the conference standings. Colorado has an opportunity to move past them next week when the teams meet Saturday in Denver. Last week: 3

3. TORONTO ROCK (4-2)                                        

The Rock have now won three straight, all in one-sided fashion, after their latest 14-5 showing against Philadelphia. Toronto has won by at least eight goals in each game during this streak, having bested New York 15-7 and Halifax 17-8. Their other win was done in the same fashion, a 19-8 season opener against Vancouver. Tom Schreiber led the way against the Wings with seven points. Last week: 6

4. CALGARY ROUGHNECKS (3-2)

Calgary had the weekend off to prepare for the difficult task of slowing down Toronto on Saturday. Last week: 4

5. COLORADO MAMMOTH (3-1)

The Mammoth drop one spot through no fault of their own. Toronto has simply been dominant as of late, and Colorado had the week off. Don’t worry Colorado fans: A win against San Diego next week and the squad is shooting up the power rankings again. Last week: 4

6. BUFFALO BANDITS (4-2)

Buffalo didn’t take a second loss last season until April. Early defeats this year to Albany and Rochester have the group on shakier ground despite the emergence of some young faces. Of course, potential returns of Chris Cloutier and Chase Fraser on the offensive end could solve some of the issues. Buffalo led 8-5 after the first half but went cold in the fourth. Last week: 2

7. SASKATCHEWAN RUSH (2-2)

The Rush had the weekend off ahead of a favorable schedule, with Las Vegas coming to town next week and a trip to Vancouver on the docket the week after. Last week: 7







8. PANTHER CITY LACROSSE CLUB (3-3)

Panther City made a major move by acquiring veteran forward Callum Crawford from New York this week. The squad hopes he can return to his 2021-22 form, as his 88 points would have led PCLC. This year, Crawford has just 10 points in three games while on a disappointing Riptide side. To land him, Panther City only had to part with one active player — backup goalie Kevin Orleman — in addition to two prospects and three draft picks. The group returns to the floor Saturday at Vancouver. Last week: 9

9. HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS (3-3)

Halifax hosts Rochester next week, an opportunity for the T-Birds to insert themselves back into the East race after falling twice last weekend. Last week: 10

10. ALBANY FIREWOLVES (2-3)

The FireWolves were swarmed early, falling into a 9-1 hole midway through the second quarter in a 16-10 defeat against the Riptide. Albany never cut the deficit under five the rest of the way, despite six points from Connor Kelly. A fun twist to the game: The teams made a trade with each other hours before the contest, with Leo Stouros heading to Albany and Curtis Conley to New York. Both played against their former teammates. Last week: 8

11. NEW YORK RIPTIDE (1-4)

The Riptide made waves this week by trading their biggest free agent acquisition in franchise history. Ironically, what followed was New York’s best offensive showing of the season in its triumph against Albany. Jeff Teat notched his second career 12-point game, while Brett Hickey, signed last week, scored twice and added four helpers. Last week: 12

12. PHILADELPHIA WINGS (2-3)

The Wings came close to suffering their second double-digit defeat of the season and are now riding a two-game skid heading into a difficult stretch that features two games against Buffalo and meetings with Halifax and Albany. Blaze Riorden opened the scoring against Toronto, but Philadelphia didn’t beat Nick Rose again until just under 13 minutes remained in the fourth quarter. Last week: 11

13. GEORGIA SWARM (0-4)

Goalie Brett Dobson was named the NLL’s Rookie of the Week on Wednesday, the highlight of a bye week for the Swarm. He had 46 saves and posted a .807 save percentage against the Bandits last week, perhaps making a play to command the crease full time after splitting with Craig Wende. Georgia returns on Friday, Feb. 3, against Colorado. Last week: 13

14. LAS VEGAS DESERT DOGS (1-4)    

Talk about a dramatic way to secure the first win in franchise history. Vegas looked toast when Logan Schuss closed the first half’s scoring to give Vancouver a 12-4 advantage. Yet the Desert Dogs responded with eight straight to tie, the beginnings of an 11-1 run that propelled the squad to a 15-14 victory. Rob Hellyer scored to put the team ahead for good, then again to notch the eventual game winner. Oh, and those who came out also got to enjoy some fisticuffs at the end of the first half. Last week: 15

15. VANCOUVER WARRIORS (1-5)

Vancouver seemed well on its way to proving it is at least better than Las Vegas with a second win against the Desert Dogs when the gameplan imploded. The Warriors went 26 minutes without scoring during Vegas’ 8-0 run but still had a chance to force overtime late. Keegan Bal got the team within one with a goal with 25 seconds left and Vancouver won the ensuing faceoff, but a final Las Vegas takeaway sealed their fate. Last week: 14

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