It’s not every year that the defending champs can add two former league MVPs to their lineup. That’s a rarity in any sport. Yet, the defending champion Rochester Knighthawks did just that this offseason, adding former National Lacrosse League MVPs Dan Dawson and Casey Powell for their title defense. “It seems like a long time coming. The group made it tough on us and they worked hard right to the final day,” said Knighthawks coach Mike Hasen. Dawson and Powell are two of the five new faces on the Knighthawks’ 23-man active roster. Paul Dawson, Joel McCready and rookie Matt Hummel are the other new additions.
The practice squad features three first-year Knighthawks in Ian Llord, Tom Montour and rookie Cody McLeod.
Dawson and Powell join an offense that already includes Mike Accursi, Craig Point and Stephen Keogh on the right side of the offense. The left side features Cody Jamieson, Joe Walters, Cory Vitarelli and Johnny Powless. Jamieson was a Second Team All-Pro and the Championship Game MVP. Accursi is coming off his best offensive season since 2007, as he eclipsed the 60-point plateau in 2012. Keogh and Powless are coming off 50-point rookie seasons and Walters was second in playoff points just seven months ago. Jamieson commented on the team’s firepower upfront.
“Players of that caliber would help any team,” he said. “They are two great guys that are coming in to help us achieve our goal.”
The transition team will rely on Brad Self, McCready, Alex “Kedoh” Hill and Hummel. Self is coming off a Champion’s Cup and a Mann Cup. With the Knighthawks, he played in a career-high 16 games and collected a career best 87 loose balls last season. Joining him are three youngsters. McCready had an impressive summer with the Langley Thunder of the Western Lacrosse Association. During the regular season, he led the Thunder with three game-winning goals, and was fifth with 33 points (13+20). Hill also turned in solid numbers in the summer. The third-year pro was the Major Series Lacrosse Rookie of the Year in 2012 after finishing third on the Six Nations Chiefs with 35 points (21+14). Hummel begins his rookie season after getting selected in the fourth round by Rochester. During the summer of 2012, he played transition for the Major Series Lacrosse’s Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks.
On defense, Rochester returns Sid Smith, Mike Kirk, Rory Glaves, Scott Campbell, Dylan Evans, Jamie Batson and Tyler Burton. Rochester added six-year pro Paul Dawson in the deal that brought his older brother Dan to the Knighthawks. Dawson and veterans Glaves, Campbell and Kirk bring a combined 28 years of experience to the team.
In goal, Rochester returns two-time NLL Goalie of the Year Matt Vinc, along with veteran Jake Henhawk. Vinc begins his eighth season in the NLL and third with the Knighthawks. In winning his first Champion’s Cup, he posted incredible numbers in the postseason with 134 saves in only three games. He also notched a 10.67 goals-against average and a .807 save percentage. In the NLL Finals, he limited Edmonton to a record-tying low six goals. Henhawk also returns, as he enters his fifth season in the NLL and fourth season with the Knighthawks. He had a career-best 11.18 goals-against average in 2012.
The Knighthawks open the National Lacrosse League season on Saturday, January 5th against the Washington Stealth. The game is the only one scheduled that weekend in the NLL. Rochester enters its 19th season as the defending NLL Champions after completing an incredible run to the franchise’s third NLL title. Now, the work begins to keep the Cup in Rochester.
“We want to go out there and show teams that we were for real last year,” said Vinc. “We will work hard every shift and are looking to defend our title. That all starts Game 1.”
“Everyone wants to beat the champs because they are trying to prove something,” added Knighthawks Owner and General Manager Curt Styres. “We have to work harder then we have ever worked before.”
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