By Alex Hinkley
The Rochester Knighthawks are heading to Minnesota to open their 2011 NLL season this weekend against the Swarm. Both teams had disappointing 2010 seasons (Rochester was 7-9 and Minnesota 5-11). Rochester missed the playoffs while Minnesota was still able to make a first round appearance. Only one of these teams will start 2011 off on the right foot.
The Knighthawks faced the Swarm just once last season, edging them out by a single goal in a close 12-11 game. John Grant had six points in that game and has historically done very well against Minnesota, scoring nine goals and adding eight assists in the last three games against them. It will be interesting to see how well the Knighthawks will do against Minnesota without Grant's contributions. Rochester is 7-4 against the Swarm in their lifetime.
The Knighthawks head into the new season with a completely revamped roster. Ten new players joined the team during the off-season including elite goaltender Matt Vinc and the return of some familiar faces in Mike Accursi, Troy Bonterre, and Pat McCready. This weekend will also mark the National Lacrosse League debut of first overall draft pick Cody Jamieson. The K-Hawks got rid of Grant in large part to make room for Jamieson who is to be their new franchise player. Jamieson has been a dominating member of the Six Nations Chiefs of Major Series Lacrosse so expect big things.
There are plenty of the big guns on the Minnesota Swarm to worry about including former Knighthawk Aaron Wilson who finished the 2010 regular season 5th in the league in scoring with 89 points and 3rd overall in goals with 40. Callum Crawford could also prove to be a problem as he had a breakout year with 96 points last season (3rd overall). The Crawford, Wilson, Benesch tandem can be very dangerous. Despite their poor record in 2010, Minnesota should not be taken lightly.
The ball drops at 8:30 PM Eastern Standard Time on Saturday, January 8th. Can't make it to away games? No problem! You can catch all the action online via the Knighthawks Livestream.