The New England Black Wolves opened the 2019-2020 National Lacrosse League season with a franchise best 4-0 mark, but as the calendar turned over, so too have the Black Wolves fortunes. New England was one of the top teams in every statistical category heading into 2020, but a three week layoff to start the new year seemed to be the speed bump that the rest of the NLL needed to catch up to the high flying Black Wolves.
Even in their 8-7 overtime victory over the Wings, coming out of that three week break, New England showed signs of a slowdown and some trouble on the offensive side. The Black Wolves were coming off a 21 goal outburst against New York and averaging 15 goals per game during their 3-0 start but needed to scuffle back late to tie the Wings, and eventually grind out on overtime win.
Since that 3-0 start, the Black Wolves have gone 1-3 and have only averaged 8.75 goals per game over that stretch. New England (4-3) has had one of the weirdest schedules to start the season, only having played seven games but also having six weeks off since the start of the season. Saturday’s matchup with the Rochester Knighthawks (1-7) will also close out a six game home stand for the Black Wolves that has stretched out over nearly two months.
For a group that started so hot, but has cooled down as of late, this 11 game finishing stretch could be just what the Black Wolves need to regain that momentum and get back on a roll heading into the playoffs. Saturday’s contest will be the first of 11 games in eight weeks which completely contradicts the choppy schedule that New England has had to this point.
The next four weekends could potentially be the tell all in where this season will be going for the Black Wolves, as they have six games and face three under .500 clubs, including one win teams Rochester and New York. They will also face off with the first place team in their own East Division, Philadelphia. New England’s next two games against Rochester and New York should help to give their offense a much needed boost as they lead the NLL in goals allowed, conceding an average north of 13 goals per game.
New England’s defense has not been as much of an issue as the offense during this rough patch. Doug Jamieson and company have only allowed a total of 69 goals so far this season, which is second only behind Saskatchewan. Jamieson ranks second in save percentage and third in goals against. New England’s special teams have also held steady throughout the early season as the penalty kill is the NLL’s strongest at 66.7% and the power play is second at 53.8%.
In their last game against Philadelphia, New England’s top offensive weapons looked to get something going as Callum Crawford and Joe Resetarits had big nights. Crawford netted his fifth hat trick of the season after being held out of the goal column against Vancouver the game before. He also added three assists for a six point night. Resetarits has been on a tear as of late and scored four goals against the Wings, bringing his total up to 15 on the season, and 12 in his last five games. Stephan Leblanc has also been quietly helping keep the New England offense going with 20 assists on the season and Andrew Kew is among the league’s top rookie scorers.
For Rochester, there will be a familiar face back on the floor at Mohegan Sun Arena, as former Black Wolves’ captain Shawn Evans returns in a Knighthawks uniform. Evans ranks second on the team with 40 points (14G, 26A). Leading the Knighthawks offense is Holden Cottoni who comes in with 15 goals and 33 assists. Another well-known name for Black Wolves’ fans is Jay Thorimbert, who will also be making his return to The Den.
Saturday’s contest between the Black Wolves and Knighthawks will also be a celebration of all military personnel and first responders as Mohegan Sun and the Black Wolves celebrate Hometown Heroes night. Face off is set for 7:00 P.M. at Mohegan Sun Arena.