Ray Lilley / NLL.com Correspondent | Photo Credit: Kohi Ton
Following an 0-3 start, New England could have rolled over and played dead. Instead, the Black Wolves put on quite the show for a sellout crowd at Mohegan Sun Arena as they outlasted the Buffalo Bandits in a thrilling, 13-12 game last Saturday night.
The sellout was the first in Black Wolves history and the theme postgame was not only to build on the win for the rest of the season but to grow the game and continue thrilling the fans at Mohegan Sun Arena.
With plenty to work on, the Black Wolves came out with energy, fire, and the will needed to beat the team that had beaten them in the 2016 East Division Final.
“Obviously it was a big and a much needed win against a tough Eastern rival in Buffalo,” New England head coach Glenn Clark explained. “We’re excited about that. Still much needed to clean up but there is something to be said about finding a way to win and we did that so we are happy with the result.”
Finding a way to win was a bit of an understatement in a game that had a total of ten lead changes. The Black Wolves did not have a two goal lead until six minutes into the 4th quarter and that was quickly answered with the Bandits tying the game with 2:37 remaining.
While the defense was lacking and consistently allowed the Bandits to slip someone behind them for a clear shot on goal, the reigning National Lacrosse League Goaltender of the Year, Evan Kirk, remained in control and up to the challenge. Kirk stopped 35 of 47 Buffalo shots.
“You sort of identify areas that need to improve and that you need to change,” Clark admitted. “That is the week in, week out analysis of the group. We look at last week against Buffalo and there were some pretty identifiable mistakes that we made as a group and we work on changing and improving and treating those.”
One thing that Clark may not look to change is his offense. His team came in to the season with the offense looking to be clearly the strongest characteristic but they struggled early on. The offense looked out of sorts and to the confession of Clark, scripted and tight. They were able to free themselves up and work their magic against Buffalo though. Led by Captain, Shawn Evans and Kevin Crowley, who both scored hat tricks in the game, the Black Wolves offense broke through and created plenty of quality scoring opportunities.
Clark referred to his offensive players as painters and said that sometimes you just have to let them paint. The Black Wolves game plan against Buffalo allowed them to do just that as they were able to create scoring chances over and over while continuing to carry the pressure in the Bandits’ defensive zone. Led by Captain, Shawn Evans and Kevin Crowley, who both scored hat tricks in the game, the Black Wolves offense broke through.
The key for New England is to carry the offensive momentum into their rematch from week one against Rochester, a game that they lost 15-8.
“Momentum is a mental thing and you can see it,” Clark said when asked about his team’s first real positive momentum of the season. “You can feel it in your group. The mental aspect of momentum is very real and I think momentum carries over from week to week so the mental outlook, you could be overreacting but you certainly don’t want to underreact. Yeah momentum is certainly a real thing and a big part of the mental aspect.”
That momentum is certainly something that the Black Wolves look to carry forward and sustain as they will head back on the road to Georgia and Buffalo after this quick two game homestand.