On Saturday, the Rochester Knighthawks open the 2019 preseason as they head west to Buffalo to take on the New York Riptide at KeyBank Center.
The 5:00 p.m. matchup will pit the NLL’s two newest teams against one another for the first time this season, giving Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey and his staff their first real look at the team they created from scratch this past summer. For the first time in the club’s preseason history, they’ll be going head-to-head with one of their National Lacrosse League opponents rather than the traditional intrasquad scrimmages they’ve been using to evaluate talent up until this point in their preseason training.
“Everybody is going to get an opportunity to play and show what they can bring to our organization,” stated Carey when asked what exactly he was expecting out of his team this weekend. “Instead of practicing against and scrimmaging against our own guys and our own teammates, they’ll have an opportunity to compete against opponents in the league, and this will give us a better indication on where certain guys are at.”
Of course, there’s the veteran core consisting of guys like Shawn Evans, Paul Dawson and Holden Cattoni, all players that Carey is more than familiar with, but he truly feels there’s not one player on the roster that flies under the radar skill wise. With the roster still sitting at 33 players, it’s important to give each guy an equal opportunity to earn their spot and there’s certainly a couple of players that Carey is more than excited to finally see in action come tomorrow night.
On the offensive side of the ball, Carey is excited to see players like Curtis Knight, Dan Lintner and Turner Evans get their chance to score a lot of goals and take advantage of the opportunity to mesh with others that have been in the league year in and year out. Defensively, there’s a lot of names that are fighting for positions according to the Knighthawks general manager. Julian Garritano and Tyler Gaulton are just a few of the big, strong athletes that come to mind when trying to crack a starting spot for the first time on defense.
The biggest test of the weekend, and upcoming weeks, will most definitely be the goaltending situation that the Knighthawks have at hand. With the active roster always required to hold at least two active netminders, it will be a tough decision for the organization to make when it comes to determining who among the three candidates in Steve Fryer, Rylan Hartley and Craig Wende will win out.
It seems, though, that Carey is open to the option of keeping all three goalies on the active roster if all three can impress the staff over the coming weeks of preseason play.
“That position in particular is one that there is some excitement around, but also we need to finalize that decision. That being said, we could get into game one and know that we’re going to be splitting time and we’re not necessarily thinking we need to have a number one starter. We have guys that are capable of playing and helping our team win and ultimately that’s what we need to accomplish.”
As there’s so much to look forward to going into Rochester’s first preseason matchup, there will also be many tough decisions to make in the days to follow. After this weekend, Carey is hoping to cut the roster down even more, but is still mindful that he and his staff may not be able to make these tough decisions if every single player goes out and impresses them at the level that he’s expecting.
“We’ll give everybody a full and fair opportunity to play, and some will play more than others this weekend, but everybody gets a chance to play. By the end of the weekend, in order to get closer to our number we’re probably going to have to release a couple of guys. That being said, if everybody plays really well, then it might be something that we leave until after next weekend in Toronto,” stated Carey when asked about the tough decisions his staff will face in the remaining weeks leading up to the Knighthawks home opener on Nov. 30.
Looking ahead, two more games remain on the Knighthawks preseason schedule after this weekend. Rochester heads north of the border on Saturday, Nov. 16 to take on the Toronto Rock at 7:00 p.m. before hosting the Philadelphia Wings in their preseason finale on Saturday, Nov. 23 at Segar and Sciortino Field at The Blue Cross Arena. Rochester’s final tune-up against the Wings will be closed to the public.