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Black Wolves, Wings come together for Round 2

New England took Round 1, 8-7 in overtime on January 18th

It was only about one month ago when the New England Black Wolves welcomed the Philadelphia Wings to Mohegan Sun Arena for their first matchup of the season. On January 18th, the Black Wolves (4-2) and Wings (5-3) were both riding high on a three game winning streaks and battling for first place in the East.

The Black Wolves came out on top in their first meeting, coming from behind to beat the Wings in an 8-7 overtime thriller. Less than a month later, on Sunday evening the two will meet again, at the same place, with the same thing on the line, first place in the National Lacrosse League’s East Division.

Philadelphia will be playing the back end of two straight coming off a bye week while New England will also be getting back on the floor after having last week off. The Wings will take on the Bandits in Buffalo on Saturday night before making their way to Mohegan Sun Arena for Sunday’s matchup.

The two clubs come into this weekend in somewhat different positions following their matchup in mid-January. New England has lost their last two contests while Philadelphia has gone 2-1 since leaving The Den. Similarly to their previous matchup, Sunday’s game will still be for the top spot in the East, even despite the Black Wolves’ recent struggles.

After starting the season 4-0 and leading the NLL with an over 10 goals per game average, the Black Wolves offense has hit a speed bump and only scored 16 goals in their last two contests. One major concern for New England’s offense has to be their biggest offensive threat, Callum Crawford, who was only able to put up two assists in their 10-6 loss last time out against Vancouver. Crawford dominated New York with five goals and nine assists back on December 27th but since that 14 point performance, he has only been able to muster up 10 points (5G, 5A) total in the last three games.

The struggles of Crawford and the Black Wolves’ offense have been even more glaring, not only because of their hot start, but because their defense and goalie Doug Jamieson have been nothing short of spectacular. New England’s 55 goals against is second only to Saskatchewan’s 52. Jamieson and the Black Wolves are only allowing an average of 9.17 goals per game.

New England’s Jamieson and Wings’ backstop Zach Higgins are both top three in the NLL in goals against average and save percentage. Jamieson is first in save percentage (.832) and second in goals against (8.74) while Higgins is a close second (.825) and third (8.83) respectively in both categories.

Philadelphia is definitely a team that will test the excellent defense and goaltending of New England, as the Wings have a number of offensive weapons that can hurt you in many different ways. The big name for the Philadelphia offense is former New England star Kevin Crowley who leads the Wings with 42 points (15G, 27A). Accompanying the threat of Crowley is one of the NLL’s top goal scorers, Brett Hickey (17G) and the NLL’s top transition scorer, Kiel Matisz (8G, 18A). The Wings offense is one of the deepest in the NLL, having a league-best seven players with at least 20 points on the season.

New England and Philadelphia face off for the second time this season at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday at 5:00 P.M. with first place on the line. The Black Wolves will finish up their six game home stand next Saturday when they welcome the Rochester Knighthawks to The Den.