Thunderbirds get back on track against Knighthawks

Jan 27, 2024

(HALIFAX, NS) January 27, 2024 – The Halifax Thunderbirds got back into the win column on Saturday night, defeating the Rochester Knighthawks 13-8 at Scotiabank Centre. 

Randy Staats had another productive evening with two goals and six points, leading the Thunderbirds. Ryan Benesch finished the game with a five-goal performance – the second time this year he’s had a five-plus goal game. Austin Shanks (2G, 3A) and Clarke Petterson (3G, 2A) also had big nights. 

Jake Withers continued his strong play, posting an assist, 21 loose balls, and five caused turnovers while winning 16 face-offs. 

Warren Hill had his best outing of the year to date, holding Rochester to single digits in goals while turning away 42 shots. 

The Thunderbirds got out to a quick start with the home crowd behind them. Jake Withers took the opening draw of the game down into the offensive zone before dishing to Clarke Petterson for a quick strike just seven seconds in. Just over two minutes later, Benesch put home his first on the night, making several fakes before slotting the ball in the back of the net. 

Matt Gilray got Rochester on the board in transition, but Colton Armstrong got his own goal on the run. Connor Fields and Benesch traded goals to end the opening frame, giving the Thunderbirds a 4-2 lead through 15 minutes. 

Benesch completed his hat trick to open the second, cleaning up a rebound off a Dawson Theede shot on top of the crease. Staats got his 200th career goal to push the Halifax lead to four. After Ethan O’Connor got a transition marker for the visitors, Staats scored his second consecutive goal for the Thunderbirds. Ryan Smith cut into the lead with just over three minutes left in the half. But Benesch got his milestone goal with 37 seconds left in the half to restore the four-goal advantage. 

For Benesch, that goal marked the 528th of his career, surpassing Colin Doyle for fifth in NLL history in goals. 

The Thunderbirds carried the 8-4 lead into the second half, and they kept things rolling in the third. Petterson got his second goal of the game to open the third, eating a check and burying a shot while falling. Petterson wasn’t done there. He fed Austin Shanks with a behind-the-back feed for a second straight goal before adding a buzzer-beater to end the third. With a quarter to play, the Thunderbirds held an 11-5 advantage.  

Rochester started to chip into the deficit to open the fourth, scoring three straight. Ben MacDonnell got a transition goal, and Fields added a pair to make it 11-8 with 3:16 to play. But Benesch put an exclamation mark on his milestone night, depositing another rebound home to regain that four-goal lead in the late goings. Shanks potted an empty netter to put the game to bed with under a minute to play. 

With the win, the Thunderbirds move to 3-3 on the season. They’ll be right back in action on Feb 2 when they travel to Philadelphia for a rematch with the Wings at Wells Fargo Center. Opening face-off is set for 8:00 p.m. AT. 

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