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01/05/2014 - 11:45am

By Andrea Chevalier -- The back-to-back World Champion Rochester Knighthawks have an opportunity to not only be the first team in National Lacrosse League history to win three consecutive championships, but also to be the first team in Rochester sports history to win three titles in a row.

Other Rochester teams have made consecutive championship game appearances, but no team has won more than two championships in a row. The Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League played in four consecutive Calder Cup Finals, but only won two in a row from 1965 to 1966. They lost in their third appearance in 1967, and won their third championship in their fourth appearance in 1968. 

The Rochester Rhinos made it to the United Soccer A-League Championship Game four consecutive years (1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001), but lost in 1999. The Rochester Red Wings of Minor League Baseball have won back-to-back Governor’s Cups once (1955 and 1956).

“It’s a huge challenge,” said Mike Accursi, who won three championships with the Knighthawks including their back-to-back championships. “It’s hard enough to win back-to-back (championships) and nobody has won three in a row for a reason. It will be difficult, but we have a great team of guys and we prepare really well so it would be amazing to do it. It would be a huge accomplishment. We are just really grateful to even have this opportunity.”

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement that went into effect this season resulted in some changes in the number of teams that will make the postseason and set-up the playoff games. This new arrangement will force teams to work harder to be eligible for playoff contention. With the new set-up, six teams make the playoffs rather than eight, and the Division Finals and Champion’s Cup Finals are now best-of-two and not one-game eliminations.

In the previous two seasons, the Knighthawks battled to make it to the playoffs, but dominated once they reached the postseason. The new CBA will make it nearly impossible for teams to merely squeeze into the playoffs. Teams that make the playoffs will have to be stable and perform strong all season, a challenge that this mostly veteran team is ready and willing to take on.

“This year, we need to play well and consistently throughout the full year, and we can’t be going into the playoffs at 7-9 or 8-8 because that probably won’t get you in,” said Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc. “We need to be a more consistent team from start to finish.”

To Knighthawks forward and Irondequoit native Joe Walters, being a member of Rochester’s back-to-back championship team and returning this season to begin the fight for the third championship in a row means something more. 

“It makes it more special for me being from Rochester,” said Walters. “I can remember sitting in the stands when I was a kid, cheering on the team and watching so many of the great players come through here.  When I look up in the stands when we are playing and see the kids sitting there, I remember that I was in their shoes once and now I’m playing for my hometown team.” 

The Knighthawks opened their 20th season on December 28th with an 8-6 victory over Minnesota, a positive start to the quest to win that third consecutive championship.  

The Knighthawks will be back in action on January 11th when they take on the Philadelphia Wings at the Blue Cross Arena at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available and can be purchased by calling the Knighthawks office at (585) 454-4295.

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