Rochester Knighthawks 2014 NLL Preview: Gearing Up for a Three-Peat

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Rochester Knighthawks 2014 NLL Preview: Gearing Up for a Three-Peat
Photo: Dan Brodie, via nll.com
The Rochester Knighthawks have won two-straight Champion's Cups

For the second year in a row, the Rochester Knighthawks are the defending NLL champions. 

As in 2012, their regular season was fairly unremarkable. In 2013 they finished the schedule with an 8-8 record, good for second place in the East Division and fifth overall. But they finished strong, going 5-3 in the second half and carrying that momentum all the way to a second straight Champion's Cup.

The 2014 edition of the K-Hawks will look much the same as the 2013 team.

The biggest change is the departure of Mike Accursi, who contributed 36 points to the Rochester cause last season. According to Bob Chavez of ilindoor.com, Accursi will be moving into a front office position, so he's not completely out of the picture.

The rest of the offense is intact, however. Led by Cody Jamieson, who was sixth in the NLL in scoring with 89 points, the Knighthawks have a number of effective weapons.

Dan Dawson is a former MVP and, after a bit of a slow start last year, finished with 75 points before adding another 14 in three playoff games.

Cory Vitarelli (44 pts), Stephen Keogh (24 pts) and Johnny Powless (41 pts) are also key contributors to the offense.

Vitarelli and Jamieson are both entering their fourth years in the league, while Keogh and Powless are entering their third. All four are young and athletic and entering their prime. Along with the veteran presence of Dawson, they could make an even more formidable offensive unit this year.

Defense is the biggest strength of this team, however. In 2013 they gave up just 165 goals, the fewest in the NLL. They play smart team defense that keeps opposing teams from getting too many easy opportunities.

Brad Self (96 loose balls, 13 forced turnovers) and Sid Smith (68 LBs, 16 FTs) lead a defensive unit that also includes Mike Kirk (72 LBs) and Dan Dawson's brother, Paul (38 LBs).

Joe Walters (34 pts) and Joel McCready (15 pts, 46 LBs) provide effective help on transition and can push the ball up the floor quickly.

The centerpiece of the defensive group is Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc. Playing all but four-and-a-half minutes of the regular season and every second of the posteseason, Vinc set a regular season record for saves (662) while posting a league-best 10.17 goals-against average and a .803 save percentage.

Vinc is the best goalie in the NLL right now and keeps Rochester in virtually every game they play.

The Knighthawks haven't made a lot of offseason changes, but why should they? They've won two Champion's Cups in a row and have a nice mix of youth and experience up and down the roster.

If their younger offensive players continue to develop, they could be an even tougher matchup this year than last year, making them the team to beat in the NLL.

 

Follow me on Twitter @calgaryjimbo

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