Friday, January 14, 2011

Game preview: Rochester vs Toronto

By Alex Hinkley

The time has almost come, Knighthawk fans. After an excruciatingly long off-season, the Rochester Knighthawks 2011 home opener is tomorrow night against the Toronto Rock. The Rock already steamrolled Edmonton in their home opener and look to improve to 2-0 on the season. The Knighthawks won their first game of 2011 as well so this will likely be a hard fought game between two division rivals.

Shawn Williams leads the Knighthawks in scoring going into the game with six points (1 G, 5 A). Craig Point leads the team in goals with three (and one assist). These stats perfectly mirror the top two Toronto players in Blaine Manning (1 G, 5A) and Stephan Leblanc (3 G, 1 A) who was named the 2010 NLL Rookie of the Year.
The Rock have a very stacked offense this year. In addition to Leblanc and Manning, Rochester will also have to deal with two other elite-caliber players in Garrett Billings and Colin Doyle. To make matters worse, the Rock signed free agent Pat Maddalena during the off season. Maddalena injured his knee in an exhibition game, however, and didn't play in the Rock's home opener despite already being taken off the Injured Reserve. Whether or not he'll play tomorrow night isn't clear.

Luckily the Knighthawks have made several key additions of their own including 2010 Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc (correctly pronounced "Vince"). Vinc was brilliant in the season opener against Minnesota, saving 40 out of 50 shots to earn his first win as a Rochester Knighthawk. This year fans will be chanting "Vino" instead of constantly yelling "Toole Time." Tomorrow night will also be the first chance many Hawk fans get to see Cody Jamieson in action.

Scott Evans and Kyle Laverty will both be returning to the Knighthawks' lineup. They missed the first game of the season after serving suspensions left over from the final game against Washington last year. Hopefully Evans and Laverty can provide a boost on both offense and defense respectively.

Surprisingly, the Rock have never won a game in Rochester during the regular season. According to the official Toronto Rock website, the Rock have played and lost 15 regular season games when the two teams met in Rochester. That isn't to say the Rock have never won at the Blue Cross Arena. The two teams met here in the 2003 Champion's Cup final in which Toronto came out with a 8-6 victory. Some might argue that this was the most important one to be played. Nevertheless, Rochester will look to extend the Rock's regular season losing streak tomorrow night.

The game starts at 7:35 PM EST. The first 5,000 fans will receive a Knighthawks magnet schedule so get there early if you're a season ticket holder.

(Originally Published on Examiner.com)

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