Game Preview - Halifax @ Rochester

Mar 28, 2024

The Halifax Thunderbirds continue their road swing on Saturday night when they head to Blue Cross Arena for a showdown with the Rochester Knighthawks. Opening face-off is slated for 8:00 p.m. AT.

Head to Head

Halifax and Rochester wrap their regular-season series this Saturday. This is a matchup that the Thunderbirds have an advantage in, sitting at 5-1 against their rivals since moving to the Maritimes for the 2019-20 campaign. 

However, they are just 1-1 at Blue Cross Arena, and dropped their last visit to Rochester, so they’ll be aiming to get that win back and sweep the season series in one go this weekend. In the last game between these two squads back in late January, Halifax got a steady offensive showing and one of the best outings of Warren Hill’s season to push out to a six-goal lead through three quarters before wrapping things up with a 13-8 victory in front of the home faithful at Scotiabank Centre.

With these teams being close in the standings, this game will hold some extra meaning with under a month remaining until the start of playoffs.

Scouting the Thunderbirds

Halifax’s offence will be looking to have a bounce-back performance after being held to single digits a week ago. 

Clarke Petterson (34G, 49A) continues to break out as a star in the NLL. He finished with three goals and six points against the Knighthawks in the first meeting between these teams this year. Fellow righty Austin Shanks (19G, 51A) also had a pair of tucks and four points in the victory, but it was a five-goal outing from Ryan Benesch (39G, 28A) that was the standout performance on the night. 

The Thunderbirds are still without star forward Randy Staats, but the team has found balanced scoring all year, still sitting atop the league with 189 goals for through 15 games.

The battle at the stripe will also be paramount in this game. Thankfully for Halifax, Jake Withers continues to light up the stats sheets. He still sits above 70 percent on draws this season, and with 12 loose balls last game, he set the NLL single-season record. Currently sitting at 249 loose balls with three games to go this year, he could make a run at 300. 

The Thunderbirds’ transition has also been a big part of their success as of late, getting contributions from several defenders stretching the floor. 

Warren Hill is coming off arguably his best performance of the season, turning away 40 shots and holding Toronto’s offence to single-digit goals. Sitting with a 10.82 goals-against average and a .770 save percentage, the Halifax starter will be after his eighth win of the campaign.

Scouting the Knighthawks

The key to slowing down the Knighthawks is to limit the production of Connor Fields (41G, 52A) and Ryan Smith (39G, 42A), but that’s been much easier said than done across the league this season. 

Fields currently sits fourth in league scoring and is well on pace for his second career 100-point year. His blend of high-end skill and Smith’s strength and skill makes for a tough duo to defend on the defensive end. Halifax was able to limit the pair to six combined points on eight goals, so they’ll be looking to have similar success this time out. 

But Rochester’s supporting cast is strong as well. After being acquired from Georgia early in the season, Ryan Lanchbury is having his best pro season while 2022 first-overall pick Thomas McConvey continues to impress in his rookie season. Kyle Waters is also finding success in his first year with the Knighthawks, and the team just got reliable veteran Curtis Knight back from Injured Reserve in the last month. 

In transition, Matt Gilray sits sixth in scoring on Rochester with seven goals and 17 points this year. Ryland Rees, Dan Coates, and Brad Gillies also provide strong offensive options for the Knighthawks. 

In net, Riley Hutchcraft continues to man the cage after an early-season injury to Rylan Hartley. He sits with a 6-6 record to go along with a 12.69 GAA and a .760 SV%.

Making History

It’ll be a banner night for Thunderbirds captain Cody Jamieson, who returns to the place where his career started back in 2010 to play his 200th career game. 

Jamieson will become the first-ever player to reach 200 games played with the Thunderbirds organization. He surpassed Regy Thorpe for first in games played in franchise history earlier this season.

This will also be another milestone night for another future Hall of Famer in Ryan Benesch. The veteran lefty will play in his 271st game, which will surpass Josh Sanderson for seventh in NLL history. Benesch can also move into fourth all-time in career goals with two tallies on Saturday night. 

Milestone Tracker

  • Ryan Benesch needs two goals to surpass Dan Dawson for fourth all-time in NLL History (552)... Needs one game to surpass Josh Sanderson for seventh all-time in NLL history (271)
  • Cody Jamieson needs one game played to reach 200 for his career
  • Dawson Theede needs five points to reach 100 for his career

Broadcast Info

Thunderbirds fans can catch all of Saturday’s action on TSN+ in Canada and ESPN+ in the United States

You can also join fellow Thunderbirds fans and catch the game live at our official watch party at Lion’s Head Tavern on Saturday night!

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