Aug 17, 2017

midget team.jpg(August 16, 2017)… With the crowning of three champions Sunday, the Rochester Knighthawks wrapped up their first USBOXLA-sanctioned lacrosse tournament. In all, 13 teams competed in the inaugural Upstate Box Lacrosse Invitational, with players and fans coming to Rochester from as far away as Nepean, Ontario and Akwesasne.

“I was very pleased with how our first tournament went,” said Knighthawks Academy Director and defenseman Brad Gillies. “Bill Gray’s (Regional Iceplex) was a top-notch host and we were treated to great lacrosse. This event will only help strengthen the growth of box lacrosse in Rochester and I can't wait for what the future holds. We are committed to growing box here in Rochester the right way.”

CoachLaszkiewicz.jpgThe tournament not only included three Jr. Knighthawks teams, but featured the Nepean Knights, Akwesasne Storm, FCA CANAM Box Lacrosse, Seneca Elite, Allegany Arrows, Tech Valley Attack and Blaze Lacrosse.

“I think it went pretty well,” said Jr. Knighthawks coach and Knighthawks forward Luke Laszkiewicz. “We had a team from Canada and local teams, so there was a big variety of talent and experience. Overall, I think everyone learned a lot about the box game, and it was a successful weekend.”

The tournament was made possible through a partnership with USBOXLA and Visit Rochester, which provided each player with a commemorative gift bag. The Knighthawks, who entered junior teams at the PeeWee, Bantam and Midget levels, plan to make the Upstate Box Lacrosse Invitational an annual event to help grow the indoor game in Rochester.

“This was a great experience for all of the kids, coaches, and families that participated in the tournament,” said Knighthawks Senior VP of Business Operations Nate Snyder. “Our owner, Curt Styres, is very passionate about growing the game overall, but especially here in the Greater Rochester area. This is an incredible step in the advancement of dedicated box lacrosse programs being held in our area. We are very excited to use this tournament as a springboard for future events and are motivated more than ever to grow this game.”

The Jr. Knighthawks were especially excited to play in front of their friends and family. In the past, the teams have traveled to play in tournaments in Oakville, Ontario and Virginia. That all changed this past weekend with the hosting of their own event at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Tanner Soudan, who is the son of Knighthawks Hall of Famer Tim Soudan. “I didn’t have to stay in a hotel; I got to sleep in my own bed. My sister and brother-in-law could come and watch me play. It was cool to show them what I could do (in the box game).”

For Casey McDermott of Brighton, playing for the Jr. Knighthawks gave him his first opportunity to play indoor lacrosse. McDermott, who is committed to play college lacrosse at Johns Hopkins, made a smooth transition from the field game as he finished second on the Midget team in goals (five) and were tied for third in points (10).

“This was my first real box tournament,” he said. “It was a new experience for me and I had a lot of fun playing it. It was real fast-paced.”

The Jr. Knighthawks finished undefeated to capture the Midget Division championship, knocking off Tech Valley 7-6 in a shootout in a matchup of the top two teams. Akwesasne (Bantam Division) and Nepean (PeeWee) took home the other titles Sunday afternoon. Former Knighthawk Mike Benedict coached the unbeaten Akwesasne Storm to a gold medal in the Bantam Division. It was a homecoming for the original Knighthawk, who helped the franchise launch its professional team back in 1995.

“Great tournament,” tweeted Benedict after leading his team to a 4-0 record. “Nice to be back where I started my career. Go Hawks!”

The final championship team was the Nepean Knights, who defeated the Tech Valley Attack in the PeeWee championship game to conclude the tournament 4-0. The Jr. Knighthawks placed third in the division as they beat Seneca Elite 10-4 in the consolation game. In the tournament, Callan Dennis led the Jr. Knighthawks with 11 points, while Jameson Bucktooth and Connor Gorton were tied with 10 points apiece.

Next up for the Jr. Knighthawks is the fifth annual Jr. NLL Tournament. The weekend-long competition will take place from Friday, Aug. 25 to Sunday, Aug. 27 at the Toronto Rock Athletic Center and the Glen Abbey Community Center in Oakville, Ontario. The Jr. Knighthawks Midget team will look to carry over their championship performance at the NLL’s premier junior lacrosse event.

“It gives us confidence going into it,” said forward Colin Boglione. “For a lot of guys this was their first box experience. It gets us some games under our belts and gets us ready for Oakville.”

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