When the New England Black Wolves last walked off the floor at Mohegan Sun Arena nearly four weeks ago, they were in a tough spot. Colorado ended that game on a 13-4 run to finish off a 19-11 victory. The loss was the Black Wolves’ third straight defeat and they were left searching for answers.
Those answers may have come to New England in the form of trades. Two days after leaving the Mohegan Sun Arena floor, the Black Wolves picked up Johnny Powless from the Georgia Swarm in exchange for two draft picks. Powless only played one game as the new guy because on February 28th New England made another move. The Black Wolves sent their leading scorer and two-time National Lacrosse League MVP to the Buffalo Bandits for Callum Crawford. The deal not only sent shockwaves throughout the lacrosse world but it also sent a message to the guys in the New England locker room.
There are always questions when you trade away a player like Evans but for the Black Wolves, it was more of a challenge than a head scratcher. It was a challenge to guys like Kevin Crowley, Kyle Buchanan, Kevin Buchanan, and Aaron Bold to step up their game. And it was a motivating confidence boost for a young player like Reilly O’Connor and newcomers Stephan Leblanc, Crawford, and Powless. By trading Evans, the Black Wolves hierarchy showed these players how important they are to the success of this club and if the last two games have established anything, it is that they have embraced the challenge.
“I think they are just going to get better and more comfortable as they move along,” Black Wolves head coach Glenn Clark said. “I’m excited about where our group is. I was also really happy with how Aaron (Bold) played because that was playoff and championship caliber goaltending. If he can keep rolling that out, we are going to be a tough team to deal with.”
The playoffs are exactly what this current five game stretch against East Division rivals is all about. Friday’s game against Toronto finishes off a home-and-home between the two and is followed by matchups with Buffalo will sandwich a game against Georgia. The importance of these five games is not lost on Coach Clark.
“It is very important, more so because it’s in the East. We see how tight everything is in the East so obviously winning games in the East is very important. The potential to get tie breakers against teams is very important, especially when it appears it is going to be very tight down the stretch. This is a really important stretch, starting with the last game against Toronto. We have three games in a row against the East so to be able to grab a couple of wins there does a lot for you.”
After edging out a 8-7 overtime win last week in Toronto, the Black Wolves now sit in first place in the East. Clark’s group can separate themselves from their crowded East Division foes with a couple wins over the remaining four games of this stretch and with two teams already clinched in the West, solidifying a playoff spot as early as possible will be important down the road.
Face off on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena is at 7:30 p.m. EST when New England welcomes Toronto for their last meeting of the season.