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12/08/2012 - 8:58am

By Travis Larner,—
The Rochester Knighthawks will open their preseason schedule with a home contest against the Minnesota Swarm tonight. The game will be a rematch of the Knighthawks’ preseason win over the Swarm last December.

Saturday’s game will be the first time the Knighthawks have hit the turf at The Blue Cross Arena since winning the Champion’s Cup on May 19th. Although not a regular season game, goaltender Matt Vinc hopes to begin the 2013 season on a high note.

“It’s going to be great to get back in front of those fans where we were able to hoist the Cup. Hopefully we will give them a glimpse of the 2013 team that’s going to give it their all and going to get back to that game,” Vinc said after practice on Wednesday.

Winning is the main objective for any game, but Rochester native Joe Walters understands that building chemistry as a team is the most important outcome from the preseason. The players credit their ability to come together at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs as one of the biggest factors for winning the title, but do not want to wait for Week 16 gel as a team.

“It’s not on our record (if we win or lose). We’re adding some new pieces, so we want to make sure that we start to gain that chemistry right away. That starts on Saturday. It’s a good opportunity for us at an early stage to start building right now,” said Walters.

Champion’s Cup MVP Cody Jamieson scored a game-high six goals with three assists as Rochester defeated Minnesota 19-15 in a preseason tilt on December 17, 2011. He added another nine points (3+6) in the Knighthawks’ 16-14 win over Minnesota on February 4th.

Rochester split its two-game series with the Swarm last season, dropping a 9-6 decision in Minnesota on February 12th.

“It’s not our ultimate goal at this point, but I think (a win) will send some energy for ourselves as far as an organization and for our fans as well to help show that we are continuing down that path that we want to be on to remain successful,” said Head Coach Mike Hasen.

Currently, the Knighthawks’ roster has 36 players, which must be reduced to 26 before the start of the regular season. Hasen has been evaluating each player at every practice throughout Training Camp, and will be able to see how the newcomers perform as a team in live game action.

Casey Powell will be manning the right-hand side of the offense for the first time since 2000. Joel McCready will also be returning the Rochester lineup, last playing in 2011 with the Knighthawks. Former Buffalo Bandits Ian Llord and Tom Montour will be wearing purple and teal for the first time in their careers as well.

“We want to make sure they are going 110 percent every time they are on the floor. We’ve gone through a few of our systems and we want to make sure people have grasped on to what we’re trying to teach them,” Hasen said about what he expects to see from the team. “The biggest thing we told the guys is just go and play.”

Robbie Campbell, the Knighthawks’ first pick in the NLL Entry Draft with the 26th overall selection, will be making his professional lacrosse debut. He had an impressive Training Camp, where he won the overall fitness testing. Campbell will be used primarily on the defensive end of the floor, but Hasen noted he “has the natural ability to get up the floor quickly” and will be given opportunities to score in transition.

Two players who will not see time on Saturday are Ryan Cousins, who was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform List, and Jordan Hall, who is recovering from a torn ACL.

“If you ask Jordan Hall, Jordan Hall is ready to play right now. He’s looking good and definitely feeling good, but I know there’s a little bit of caution with Jordan right now just to make sure he’s okay. He’s going to be 100 percent when he steps on the floor, but not this weekend” said Hasen.

The Swarm, who lost to the Edmonton Rush in the semifinals last season, added four first-round draft picks to their lineup. Brock Sorenson and Kiel Matisz were taken with the second and third overall picks, and stand at 6-6 and 6-5 respectively. Drafted fourth was Shayne Jackson followed by Alex Crepinsek six spots later.

“I think they’ve gotten a whole lot better. Their draft picks are legit players and have excelled in the leagues they play in. I think it’s just another stepping stone for them personally and their team,” said Hasen.

Rochester will conclude its preseason with a showdown against the Toronto Rock at the Bell Centre in downtown Montreal. The defending World Champion Rochester Knighthawks will battle the rival Toronto Rock on Saturday, December 15th at 7:30 p.m. at the home of the Montreal Canadiens. Fans can catch the game on Sportsradio 950 ESPN and online at

The defending National Lacrosse League Champions will kick off the home portion of their schedule on Saturday, January 19th against the rival Buffalo Bandits at 7:30 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena. Rochester will raise its 2012 NLL Championship banner before the game to commemorate the title won in the Knighthawks’ 18th season.

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