“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk – All Lacrosse All The Time, a Division of the Edge of Philly Sports Network
The Rochester Knighthawks traveled to Gas South Arena on Saturday to face the Georgia Swarm in the season opener for both teams. Georgia narrowly missed the playoffs last year via tiebreaker. It marked the first time in 6 years they failed to make the postseason. Rochester started last season 3-2 but struggled the rest of the way, finishing 4-14. While both teams made significant acquisitions in the offseason, it was Rochester’s biggest acquisition, Connor Fields, who made the biggest impact. An 11-point night from Fields powered the Knighthawks to a decisive 16-11 road victory.
Bringing the Sting
Curtis Knight (3g, 3a) opened the scoring for Rochester, beating Swarm netminder Craig Wende just 36 seconds into the game. Holden Cattoni (3g, 3a; 5:50) extended the Knighthawks early lead to 2-0. Jeremy Thompson, recently acquired from Panther City, beat goalie Rylan Hartley off the ensuing faceoff (5:55) to make it 2-1.
2022 first-round draft pick Austin Hasen (2g; 6:29) restored Rochester’s two-goal edge with his first career NLL goal. Brendan Bomberry (1g, 2a) answered for Georgia at 9:26 before Cattoni (11:21) netted his second of the game. At the end of the first quarter, the Knighthawks led 4-2.
A nine-goal second quarter saw Georgia outscoring Rochester 7-2. 2020 MVP Shayne Jackson (3g, 2a; 1:05) made it 4-3 before Fields (4g, 7a; 3:03) scored his first goal in a Knighthawks uniform. Jackson struck again at 3:55 to ignite a four-goal run for the Swarm. Adam Wiedemann (5:33), Lyle Thompson (7:23), and Andrew Kew (8:01) found the back of the net to turn a 5-3 deficit into a 7-5 lead.
Hasen’s second goal (10:42) put Rochester within one, but the Swarm tacked on two more before the half. 2022 draft pick Teioshontateh McComber (11:51) scored his first career NLL goal. Kew (2g, 2a; 12:10), acquired via offseason trade with Albany, then tallied his second goal. After 30 minutes of play, Georgia held a 9-6 lead.
Knighthawks pull away with second-half run
Rochester pulled out the green Uno Reverse card to start the second half, going on a seven-goal run through the third quarter and almost half of the fourth quarter. Knight’s second (5:39), Thomas Hoggarth (3g, 2a; 8:15), Knight’s hat-trick goal (9:12), and the second from Fields (9:34) put Rochester back on top 10-9. Fields then added two more (3:34; 5:28) and Hoggarth his second (5:56) to extend the lead to 13-9 to start the fourth quarter.
Jeremy Thompson’s second goal on the next faceoff (6:02) broke a scoring drought of nearly 24 minutes for Georgia. Jackson (7:42) then notched his hat trick to pull the Swarm to within two, 13-11. But Cattoni’s hat-trick goal (11:45) and a pair of empty-net goals from Brad Gillies (13:03) and Hoggarth (14:11) effectively ended the game.
Other Stats of Note
Shots on Goal: ROC 55; GA 53
Faceoffs: ROC 16 of 31; GA 15 of 31
Power Play: ROC 0 for 1; GA 0 for 2
Ryan Smith (ROC): 5a
Jeremy Thompson (GA): 16 Loose Balls (led all players)
Rylan Hartley (ROC): 46 saves
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“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk was formally introduced to box lacrosse when he attended a New England Black Wolves game on a whim in 2016. Instantly hooked, he has since become an avid follower of the National Lacrosse League. Following the postponement of the 2019-2020 NLL season, he was offered the chance to share his wealth of statistical knowledge and unique insights with the lacrosse community at large. He cheerfully accepted, and currently serves as Edge of Philly’s correspondent for both the Albany FireWolves and New York Riptide.