The New England Black Wolves took the floor at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday night looking to make a statement to rest of the National Lacrosse League. For a team coming off wins over two of the best from the West, New England had a chip on their shoulder feeling like they were not being given the respect that they deserved.
They made that statement on Saturday night. And they certainly should now garner plenty of respect around the league.
New England (3-1) went toe-to-toe with Georgia (4-2) in a scrappy East Division battle and came out on top 13-12. In the process, the Black Wolves also jumped the Swarm in the standings. Georgia started out the weekend at 4-0 and atop the East, but after a loss on Friday in Toronto, they needed to win to avoid dropping into fourth place.
New England’s Stephan Leblanc got the scoring started only 37 seconds in. Randy Staats answered for Georgia just under a minute later and that set the tone for the way this game was going to go. It was a seesaw battle from start to finish as neither team had a lead of more than one until the Black Wolves put in three straight goals late in the third quarter to take a 12-10 lead into the final frame.
The game featured two of the top goal scorers in the league in Reilly O’Connor and Lyle Thompson. While the Swarm were able to keep O’Connor off the scoreboard, Thompson had another big game, netting four goals and attempting 14 shots. Two of those goals came in the critical moments at the end of the game as Georgia scratched and clawed to get back into it.
Tyler Digby answered the call and was able to put this one away for New England with just under three minutes to play. It was Digby’s second of the game to finish off a quality five point performance.
Even with Thompson’s late game magic, the biggest highlight of the game was New England’s secondary scoring picking up the slack as Georgia shut down O’Connor. Even though he did not score, O’Connor picked up six assists in the game while five Black Wolves had multi goal games. In total, seven different players scored for New England and 13 contributed with at least one point.
With contributions from so many different players, New England is proving to be a dangerously deep team that can create many matchup problems. In addition, Callum Crawford (3G, 3A) and Stephan Leblanc (2G, 2A) look like they are really getting going and making this Black Wolves offense a three-headed monster for opposing defenses.
Alex Buque made 37 saves for the Black Wolves as he picked up his second win of the year. Mike Poulin stopped 41 of 54 shots for the Swarm in the losing effort. Offensively for Georgia, Randy Staats had a game high seven points (3G, 4A) and Lyle Thompson had five points (4G, A).
The New England Black Wolves will be back in action next Sunday, January 27th looking to keep their momentum going in another East Division matchup with the Buffalo Bandits. Face off will be at 6 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena.