The New England Black Wolves (5-2) continued to dominate in the East, taking down the Georgia Swarm (4-5) by a score of 16-15 on Sunday afternoon at Mohegan Sun Arena. The game was close most of the way, with each team trading leads throughout. Though the Swarm fought hard throughout the fourth quarter, Kevin Crowley scored the game-winning goal with 4 seconds left in the game. With the win, the Black Wolves have a one-game lead in the East Division.
“It’s so close, and a lot of it comes down to one shot,” said Black Wolves head coach Glenn Clark. “I think what the key has been for us is we haven’t lost contact to the game. Teams will go up, but we keep it close, and we don’t put ourselves in too big of a hole that we can’t get out of. I would’ve liked to have it buried a little bit earlier, but the positive of it is we stayed composed, we kept competing, and we gave ourselves the chance to win right at the end.”
“We kind of anticipated it being a high-scoring game, and coming down the way it did,” said Georgia Swarm assistant coach Blane Harrison. “It was a game of runs, they went up and we went up. Offensively, it was a good night for us. Obviously, they are a good offensive team, they’ve got some good sticks as well. It was one of those things were we were hoping we’d have the last save and we didn’t have it.”
With the first goal coming less than a minute into the game, the pace was set early as a fast-paced, back-and-forth battle for dominance began. Both sides forced multiple shot-clock violations through physical defense, while quick shots on offense kept the goalkeepers on their toes. However, penalties and injuries played a big role, as the Black Wolves were forced to make up for the loss of defender Brian Megill who left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury. The pack struggled to make up for the loss of such a big body and the Swarm took full advantage.
“They had come off a bye week and hadn’t been game tested in a couple of weeks,” Harrison stated. “We thought we’d get up on them early and test them right out of the gate.”
“It’s definitely his knee, but we don’t know,” Clark said about Megill’s injury. “He’s having an MRI tomorrow; they gave us a couple of scenarios, but until I know, it’s irresponsible to say one way or the other.”
The Swarm defense held strong and the offense continued to keep the game as tight as possible, tying the game at 15-15 with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The final faceoff of the game proved to the deciding factor, as Black Wolves transition player Ryan Hotaling pushed it out to Jordan Hall, who was able to set up for the offense. With forward Shawn Evans cut off, the offense shifted, opening up for forwards Jordan Hall and Kevin Crowley. With four seconds left in the final frame, Hall and Crowley exchanged quick, short passes, with Crowley putting the game-winner in the back of the net.
“We reacted to what they did,” Clark stated. “It was a 6-on-5 and we pulled our goalie, and they locked off ‘Evvy’ [Shawn Evans], so we just said lock it and we’ve got a 5-on-4. ‘Evvy’ stretched to center, their guy went with him, and then we set up in a 5-on-4 power-play look. It wasn’t at all what we drew up, we just adjusted and ran a 5-on-4.”
“’Evvy gets locked off there and it created an opening for ‘Hallsy’ [Jordan Hall] and I,” Crowley said. “I guess I was on the good side of the exchange there; I was on the right side at the right time.”
“It was a little bit of a scramble, they went and shut off [Evans] which we thought might happen,” said Black Wolves forward Jordan Hall. “If that happens, we kind of take a man-up situation and kind of wing it. I gave it to Kevin [Crowley], I thought he was going to shoot, he gave it back to me. I wasn’t really ready, so I gave it back to him, but he did a great job tucking it and putting it in. Little bit of a scramble that ended up working out.”
For the Swarm, the defense stuffed the front of the goal, forcing the Black Wolves to shoot longer shots. Goalkeeper Brodie MacDonald had a good outing, making 34 saves on 50 shots faced. Offensively, the forwards kept the pack moving and with tons of quick resets, they outshot the Black Wolves the whole game. Jessie King led the way with four goals and six assists, while Lyle Thompson collected two goals and three assists and Randy Staats added three goals and one assist.
The Black Wolves lost a big body on defense, but used tough one-on-one matchups and another strong outing from goalkeeper Evan Kirk to silence a fiery Swarm offense. Kirk finished the game with 49 saves on 64 shots faced. For the offense, Shawn Evans led the way with three goals and seven assists, while Jordan Hall added three goals and six assists and Kevin Crowley collected three goals and three assists.
“You’ve got to find ways to win all kinds of different games, and so far we’ve been able to do that,” Clark stated. “We’ve been able to win the low-scoring ones, but we’ve also been able to win some of the higher-scoring games as well.”
“Winning is fun, and I think it is a good test,” Hall stated. “We are a young team that has kind of been put together, a couple of pieces have been slowly coming together. They’re a good team and for us to win the way we have the last two games is big. That’s the stuff you look down in the playoffs. Those are the types of wins you need. We’re really happy we can keep wining those.”
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Shawn Evans
2) Jesse King
3) Jordan Hall
The Black Wolves return to action on Saturday, March 5 as they hit the road to face the Colorado Mammoth (7-2) at 9 p.m. ET. The Georgia Swarm (4-5) have a bye week and return to action on Sunday, March 12 to take on the Saskatchewan Rush on the road at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Story by Alyssa McLaughlin for NLL.com. Photo by Khoi Ton.