By Matt Cullen | NLL.com Staff Writer
Photo Credit Graig Abel
Working overtime is paying off for the New England Black Wolves.
Sheldon Burns scored the overtime winner giving the visiting Black Wolves (4-6) a thrilling 10-9 victory over the Toronto Rock (5-4) in front of 8,477 fans at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
In a game which featured eight lead changes, Burns (1G, 2A) put an end to the back-and-forth affair firing the winner past Toronto goaltender Nick Rose at 2:33 of the extra frame.
Burns took a pass from Kyle Buchanan (4A), who recovered the ball just in time after overrunning it. Off-balance, he then flipped it to Burns, who made no mistake for his fourth of the season.
“It’s unreal,” Burns said on scoring the winning goal. “Right spot. Right time. I just shot it. The boys came and brought it tonight.”
This is the fourth overtime game for the Black Wolves this season as they improved to 2-2 in extra time. The Rock are now 0-2 in overtime games this year.
“Thankfully we came out on the right side of it,” New England coach Glenn Clark told NLL.com. “It is that [kind of] game. You are never too far ahead or never too far behind. We are trying to preach to these guys to keep an level-headed presence on the floor.”
Kevin Buchanan (4G, 3A) Kevin Crowley (2G, 4A) led the way for New England, which was playing without its captain and leading scorer Shawn Evans.
Evans was fourth in league scoring with 56 points, prior to Friday’s game.
“It’s good for our guys to understand that they can do it [without Evans],” Clark said. “We talked about what we have, not what we didn’t have. It was business as usual.”
Just moments earlier overtime, Rock forward Stephan Leblanc appeared to have scored the game-winning goal for Toronto, but it was immediately waved off for a crease violation. Upon review, it was confirmed that Leblanc had indeed stepped in the crease before scoring.
“Not again. Not again. Not again,” New England’s Kevin Buchanan said after Leblanc appeared to win it for the Rock. “We’ve fallen a couple times in overtime or have lost one-goal games this season. My heart sunk a little bit there. It was fortunate that he was in the crease.”
Black Wolves goaltender Evan Kirk was excellent, especially in the first half. He stopped 27 of 32 in the first 30 minutes, en route to finishing with 47 total saves.
With the score 3-3 after the first quarter, Rock rookie Reid Reinholdt (2G, 1A) scored his fourth and fifth of the season to give the Rock a 5-3 lead in the second quarter. But Kevin Buchanan countered with New England’s league-leading 10th shorthanded goal of the season at 7:34. Buchanan followed that with his 10th of the season at 9:21 to even the game 5-5 at halftime.
The two teams scored just three goals in the third frame. After Daryl Veltman scored his second with the Black Wolves, Kevin Buchanan completed the hat trick at 4:06 of the third quarter to make it 7-5 for New England. Kirk continued to frustrate the Rock, allowing just one goal in the frame as New England led by one after three quarters.
But the Rock finally found their offensive touch early in the fourth quarter with goals 1:18 apart from Dan Lintner and Hickey – his second of the game – to give Toronto an 8-7 lead. The back-and-forth affair continued with Crowley answering just 27 seconds later on a delayed penalty to tie it at 8. Toronto captain Brodie Merrill then broke the tie with a transition marker with 3:42 left. But again, the Black Wolves had an answer with Kevin Buchanan – his fourth of the game – to tie it at 9 with 2:27 remaining.
Leblanc (1G, 4A) and Tom Schreiber (1G, 3A) were the top offensive players for Toronto. The Rock, which started the season with four wins in five games, now find themselves in the heat of a divisional battle with a 5-4 record. Three of Toronto’s four losses have been by one goal.
“We’re learning on the fly here,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer said. “We need to learn in a hurry how to win these tight games. That’s the reality – it’s a one-goal league. We’re coming up on the wrong side of them right now.”
The Rock wore special Star Wars jerseys for their annual charity night in support of the Smilezone Foundation. The jerseys were auctioned off directly after the game.
The Rock play the second of their three-game home stand against the Calgary Roughnecks on Saturday, March 11. The Black Wolves return home to face the East Division leading Georgia Swarm on Sunday, March 12.
NOTES: New England’s Seth Oakes was given a gross and game misconduct at 5:29 of the third quarter during an altercation…Cousins Turner Evans (Toronto) and Shawn Evans (New England) both missed the game with ankle injuries… Shawn Evans will have an MRI next week while Turner was seen in walking boot prior to the game.
Three Stars selected by the media:
Kevin Buchanan (NE)
Evan Kirk (NE)
Reid Reinholdt (TOR)