Rochester Knighthawks 2013 NLL Preview: Can They Repeat as Champions?
The Rochester Knighthawks are the NLL's defending champions after a terrific playoff run saw them take out the Edmonton Rush 9-6 for the Champion's Cup.
Considering that they just found the promised land, is it even possible to build on that success?
In fact, it is.
Although they got hot at just the right time, the Knighthawks struggled through the regular season, finishing at 7-9 and in second place by virtue of the tie-breaker system that separated them from the Philadelphia Wings and Buffalo Bandits.
Their 191 goals for were sixth best in the NLL and their 197 goals against were only slightly better at fifth best.
One of the problems was the play of former Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc.
Vinc had an up-and-down season (mostly down), posting a disappointing 12.21 goals against. Like his teammates, however, he got hot at the right time and was a wall in the Champion's Cup game, giving up just six goals in the final.
Rochester will expect more typical results from Vinc in 2013. With him still in his prime, it would not be surprising for him to return to form.
Defense will once again be led by Brad Self (87 loose balls, 20 forced turnovers) and team captain Pat McCready (94 LBs, 10 FTs) along with newly acquired Paul Dawson (53 LBs, 8 FTs), who came over this week in a blockbuster trade from the Philadelphia Wings.
Coming over with Paul Dawson from Philadelphia is his brother, Dan, who is unquestionably one of the best forwards in the NLL and one of the top set-up men in league history. Dangerous Dan has been over the 100 point plateau three times in his career, including last season when he had 103.
Dan joins a right-hand offense that includes Mike Accursi (66 points), Stephen Keogh (58 points), Craig Point (24 points in only 7 games) and Casey Powell, who sat out the 2011 season due to injury.
Both Powell and Dan Dawson are former NLL MVPs, so that instantly makes the righties on the Knighthawks dramatically more dangerous.
The lefties on the offense are also potent, with Rochester's top point-getter in 2012, Cody Jamieson (36 goals, 85 points) and Johnny Powless, who contributed 50 points to the Knighthawks' cause in his rookie season.
The combination of Powell and Dan Dawson should add to Rochester's offense and make them a lot more dangerous when attacking.
Joel McCready is returning to the Knighthawks after a year off to help out on transition and early indications are that he should have no trouble getting back into the swing of things.
Can the Knighthawks repeat as league champions with the changes they've made? We will find out beginning with their season opener on Jan. 5 when they travel to Washington to take on the Stealth.
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