In 2015, the Wings became the Black Wolves and moved from Philadelphia to New England with only six rostered players. The only one of the six still remaining with New England is their captain, Brett Manney.
The Wings returned to the National Lacrosse League for the 2018-2019 season, making this rivalry into the NLL’s version of the NFL’s Ravens-Browns matchup. This will be the fourth matchup between the two organizations with the Wings holding a 2-1 advantage after the home team prevailed in every game a year ago.
The first battle between the two in 2020 has a lot more on the line with the winner earning first place in the East Division at the end of the night. New England (3-0) is off to their best start in their six year history, while Philadelphia (3-1) has won their last three after dropping the opener. The Black Wolves will be well rested, having had the last two weeks off, while the Wings are coming off an 18-10 win over Vancouver last Friday in Philadelphia.
“It’s good for our group,” Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark said of the two week layoff. “Bye weeks are a little tricky and can work out a couple ways, you can lose momentum, or we’ve got some guys banged up, so in our case, to have this opportunity to get healthier is not a bad thing and we’ve got an opportunity to get some practice time in. The way this season has gone with bye weeks to start has been okay for our group, so it’s not a bad thing right now”
The bye weeks also provided Coach Clark with some additional responsibilities and a new title as it was announced that General Manager Rich Lisk was stepping down and Clark would now serve in dual roles as General Manager and Head Coach.
Saturday’s game will be New England’s second of six straight at Mohegan Sun Arena, including another matchup with Philadelphia on February 16th. Four of the six are against East Division foes, and three are versus opponents sitting in last place in their division, making this six game stretch a point in the season where New England can really make some noise and widen their lead on the rest of the division.
“You want to take advantage of them so you want to win the games at home,” Clark said. “We’re usually, traditionally been a stronger team at home so you do like that run of games and you know eventually you will have to go on the road so it’s important to get them here now.”
Perhaps the two most important pieces that Clark hopes to keep rolling are Callum Crawford and Doug Jamieson. Crawford (11G, 16A) is second in the NLL in points, trailing only Vancouver’s Mitch Jones (12G, 20A) who has played two more games. Crawford is averaging nine points a game, helped greatly by his incredible 14 point effort last time out against New York. Not to be outdone, Jamieson has backstopped a great New England defense to a league low 27 goals against so far this season. Jamieson is top-five in the league with 9.20 goals against and .818 save percentage. New England is tied with Halifax for tops in the NLL with an 18 goal differential.
Led by Crawford, New England’s high powered offense is leading the NLL, averaging 15 goals a game. Complementing Crawford on the offensive side are Reilly O’Connor, Joe Resetarits, Stephan Leblanc, and Andrew Kew. O’Connor (8G, 5A) is second on the team in goals after picking up six in his last game against the Riptide and Resetarits (6G, 9A) continues to be a steady playmaker for the Pack. A great addition to the Black Wolves’ offensive firepower this year has been Kew (6G, 13A), who is second on the team in scoring and has been named NLL Rookie of Week twice so far this season.
On the other side is another member of that original six as Kevin Crowley is now back in Philadelphia after the Black Wolves traded him to the Wings last season. Crowley (9G, 14A) leads the Wings in both, goals and assists, and is top 10 in the NLL in both categories. Brett Hickey, Josh Currier, and Matt Rambo have also been key contributors to the recent success of the Wings on offense.
Rivalry Night at Mohegan Sun Arena is set for Saturday night as New England and Philadelphia face off at 7:00 P.M. The two clubs will meet again at Mohegan Sun in less than a month on February 16th so you can expect this game, and arena to have a lot of energy on Saturday night.