The Rochester Knighthawks caught everyone’s attention in Week 1 of the 2018 NLL season. The Knighthawks came out firing against the Calgary Roughnecks and netted 17 goals, more than any game they had all of the 2017 season. Last year Rochester was the only team to score less than 200 goals. They managed only to find the net 175 times, 27 fewer than the Colorado Mammoth who was second to last in goals for. Of course, the lack of goal scoring last year could be attributed to the absence of former league MVP, Cody Jamieson.
The Rochester roster was fully intact to start the new season and came to play. Eleven different Knighthawks found the net in a variety of different ways, but it was the pick-and-roll ball handlers that stood out from the rest of the league. The Knighthawks lead the league in goals scored (6) and shooting percentage (30.0%) in pick-and-roll ball-handler situations. The most impressive part is that goals in these scenarios came from both sides of the floor. The Knighthawks kept the Roughneck defense on their toes with a variation of pick and roll play types.
Joe Resetarits is no stranger to opposing goaltenders. He was the Knighthawks’ leading goal scorer last year with 27 goals.
The clip below Joe and Paul Dawson initiate a pick-and-roll situation from the right wing. Paul slips to the net forcing the on-ball defender to follow him. Joe recognizes the open space, steps in, and rips a shot to the far pipe.
The slip often puts defenders in an awkward situation and makes for a split second decision on who should follow the cutting man and who should stay put. You usually want the off-ball defender to be responsible for the slip, but in this situation, it would have probably been better for Tyson Bell to prevent Joe from getting top side and forcing him down the alley.
In the next clip, Dan Dawson shows us why off-ball defenders cannot be too aggressive off the pick. Dawson gathers the loose ball, carries to the top right spot of the offense then motions Resetarits to set a pick. Chad Cummings comes out a little too hard, and Dawson throws a textbook face dodge to get a one on one with the goalie.
In defense of the Roughnecks, it is tough to guard pick-and-rolls in this league. Dan Dawson shows in the next clip that if you give him too much space off the pick, he will just sting the corner.
It is not ideal to allow shooters the middle of the field and not fair on the goalies. Weak-side defenders need to be in proper show position to help their teammates. Coaches preach that you must know where your man and the ball are at all times. The Knighthawks were able to distract the weak-side defenders with some off-ball pick action.
To start the play rookie, Eric Fannell sets a perfect v-cut pick to allow Vitarelli get topside. The v-cut forces the off-ball defender to the middle of the floor and away from the pick action. Once Vitarelli carries to the middle of the field, you would expect the weak-side defender to help, but Cummings does not notice Vitarelli until it is too late.
The success of the pick-and-roll ball handlers this game should open up opportunities for the rollers in games to come — something that we should pay attention to in the Knighthawks’ upcoming game against the Buffalo Bandits and the rest of the season.