When Mike Melnychenko '14 heard his name called by the Buffalo Bandits in the sixth round of the 2014 National Lacrosse League (NLL) draft, he made Chestnut Hill College history, becoming the first Griffin to be drafted by a professional sports league. Now, nearly two years later, Melnychenko looks to make history again as he joins one of the most talented teams in the NLL, the five-time champion, Rochester Knighthawks.
Melnychenko had four historic seasons with the CHC men's lacrosse team, finishing as the all-time leader in nearly every offensive category including points (205), points-per-game (3.80 PPG), goals (154), goals-per-game (2.85 GPG), assists (51) and shots attempted (351). He was an NCAA Division II Goals-per-Game champion, the East Coast Conference (ECC) Rookie of the Year and the MVP of the USILA/LaxWorld 2014 Division I & Division II Senior All-Star Game.
For all these reasons, it came as no shock to his head coach when Melnychenko received the most important call of his fledgling professional career.
“Mike was always an outstanding player and one of the best I ever had the privilege to coach,” says Brian Dougherty, head men’s lacrosse coach. “His 154 career goals is a record that I don’t think will ever be broken and it was no surprise to any of us in the program when he was drafted.”
The last of Buffalo’s picks in 2014, Melnychenko played just one preseason game for the Bandits, picking up an assist, before he was released by the team. Melnychenko spent his next few months bouncing around Major Series Lacrosse, totaling four games with the Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks and 15 with the Brampton Excelsiors. It was with Brampton that the former Griffin standout had his most successful pro season, finishing with 30 points (eight goals and 22 assists) and leading the Excelsiors to the postseason.
In the playoffs, Melnychenko added seven more points, with six assists and one goal in the five-game opening series, which Brampton lost 4-1.
Coming off of that success, Melnychenko knew it was only a matter of time before he would get his chance to play in the NLL again. Sure enough, just two months after the end of Brampton’s season, he got the second most important call of his career, the one that came from Rochester.
“I was starting to wonder who was going to give me a call,” Melnychenko says. “I am pumped it was Rochester.”
The Knighthawks have been one of the premier teams in the NLL, winning three of the last four championships. Melnychenko is in good company, joining a talented roster, of which he will fit right in according to Dougherty.
“Mike plays the game hard and was as skilled as any player in the country during his collegiate years,” Dougherty says. “He’ll no doubt be a welcome addition to Rochester’s roster.”
“In all of my interactions with Mike as an intern in the athletic department, it was evident he was motivated to continue his playing career at the next level,” adds Lynn Tubman, director of athletics. “He’s an unbelievable talent and I am extremely happy he is receiving this opportunity to show the NLL what a skilled player he truly is.”
— Marilee Gallagher ’14