Saturday, January 9, 2010

Knighthawks Take Flight in 2010 Season Opener

The Rochester Knighthawks open their 16th season against a longtime rival, the Buffalo Bandits, in an 8:05 p.m. East Division showdown at The Blue Cross Arena tonight. The game will be broadcast live on The Zone 94.1 FM and After the game, the Knighthawks will hold a full-team autograph session on the turf. The first 5,000 will receive a magnetic schedule. The Knighthawks will also debut the Labatt Commemorative Cup series. Fans will receive a Pat O’Toole cup with the purchase of a 16-ounce Labatt Blue or Blue Light draft at The Blue Cross Arena.

Rochester leads the all-time series with their Thruway rivals with a mark of 22-14, including a 14-5 record at home. The game is the first of three games against the Bandits this season. Rochester travels to Buffalo on Saturday, January 16th and the Bandits make a return trip to Rochester on Saturday, March 27th.

The Knighthawks enter the season after earning their 14th postseason berth in 15 seasons in 2009. Rochester finished with a 7-9 record and fell one-goal short of advancing to the East Division Finals. The 2010 version of the Knighthawks has undergone some changes, as 10 different players are on the roster compared to opening night one year ago. The two biggest “additions” are John Grant and Scott Evans, who both missed 2009 with injuries. The duo combined for 91 goals and 180 points in 2008. Goaltender Pat O’Toole also starts the season on the active roster after missing the first three games last season with an injury. Key additions also include Cory Bomberry, Sid Smith, Andrew Potter, Peter Jacobs, Scott Ditzell, Kevin Fines and Aaron Bold. The game will mark the first time that John Grant, who is sixth in NLL history in points, and Gary Gait, who is second all-time, will play for the same professional team.

Rochester is 7-8 on opening night and 7-8 in home openers. The Knighthawks are also looking for their first home-opening victory since they defeated Toronto 10-6 on January 13, 2007. In goal, Pat O’Toole returns for his 16th season of professional lacrosse and 12th as a member of the Knighthawks. He is second in league history in saves (6,093) and is just 264 away from breaking Dallas Eliuk’s league record of 6,356.
Penfield native and McQuaid Jesuit High School product Chris Schiller will play defensive midfielder for Team USA at the 2010 International Lacrosse World Championships in July in Manchester, England.
Knighthawks forward John Grant was voted the favorite local athlete in the Democrat and Chronicle’s first Holiday Sports Poll. Fan favorite Scott Evans signed a five-year contract extension this week. Evans, 28, enters his sixth season with the Knighthawks and returns after suffering a season-ending injury in training camp in 2009. The former first-round pick had a career-high 44 goals and earned an NLL All-Star Game selection the season before his injury.

The Bandits enter the game after finishing second in the East Division (10-6) last season and advancing to the divisional finals. Buffalo won the Champion’s Cup back in 2008. Buffalo is led by the league’s all-time scoring leader, John Tavares, who enters his 19th season with 671 goals, 749 assists and 1,420 points. Buffalo also locked up forward Mark Steenhuis for another five seasons after he finished fourth in the NLL with 101 points (51+50) last season. Tavares and Steenhuis finished tied for the league-lead with 51 goals apiece as Buffalo recorded a league-best 223 goals. In goal, Ken Montour, the 2009 NLL Goaltender of the Year, is coming off a career season that saw him post an NLL leading 9.57 goals-against average and .813 save percentage. Head Coach Darris Kilgour begins 2010 just four wins shy of passing legendary Head Coach Les Bartley for the all-time record for wins (93). Defenseman Chris White was named the team captain of the Bandits and will begin his full-time duties as he plays in his 100th professional game tonight.

Rochester hits the road for a three-game road trip that makes stops in Buffalo, Toronto and Orlando. The first road game is set for Saturday, January 16th at 7:30 p.m. at HSBC Arena. The game will be broadcast live on The Zone 94.1 FM and Fans can also watch the game live on the NLL Network on Rochester’s next home game is Saturday, January 30th against the Toronto Rock at 8:05 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on The Zone 94.1 FM and Fans can meet their favorite Star Wars characters, purchase lightsabers and get autographs on Star Wars Night. All the proceeds raised will go to charity.