All week long New England’s Callum Crawford was the talk of the National Lacrosse League for reasons both good and bad. Following Sunday afternoon’s game, Crawford was the story yet again.
On Sunday, New England (7-4) got huge games from a number of players but none bigger than the NLL scoring leader. Crawford added to his league high totals with four goals and seven assists in the Black Wolves’ 17-11 victory over the Colorado Mammoth (3-7).
Crawford was suspended for six games earlier this week, but was allowed to play after the Professional Lacrosse Players Association appealed the suspension. The suspension came after Crawford was handed a match penalty late in last weekend’s game against Toronto. In the same game, Crawford took over the league lead in both goals and points.
Also having a big game for New England was Stephan Leblanc who got the scoring started early with a crazy jump shot from directly behind the net just 36 seconds into the game. Leblanc had a six point night (1G, 5A) and jumped all the way into seventh place in the NLL scoring race. A sluggish opening quarter only saw two goals as New England took a 2-0 lead into the second quarter.
The game opened up in the second as Colorado and New England traded blows. The Black Wolves got goals from Tyler Digby and Crawford to take a 4-1 lead before the Mammoth went on a 3-0 run to tie the game at four. Colorado’s leading goal scorer Eli McLaughlin had his hand in on all three goals in that stretch and looked to have a fire lit under him for the bulk of this game. Just 37 seconds after Colorado tied the game, Digby quickly answered to give New England the lead heading into the second half.
A bad substitution for New England as time expired in the first gave Colorado a power play to start the second half. They only needed 50 seconds before Ryan Benesch tied the score yet again.
A common trend this season for New England has been winning games when defensemen and transition players score goals. Sunday afternoon’s game was no different as Ryan Fournier picked up the first one to give the Black Wolves the lead again at 6-5. Fournier picked off a pass in front of his own net and took it all the way down the floor untouched before beating Dillon Ward.
David Brock, Jackson Nishimura, and Colton Watkinson also scored to help New England remain undefeated when defensemen or transition players contribute three or more goals. The Black Wolves have received three or more goals from defensemen or transition players in all seven of their wins this season.
New England outscored Colorado 7-5 in a back and forth third quarter before putting the game out of reach with five goals in the final frame.
Doug Jamieson hit a career high in saves for the second game in a row and has now won his last three starts for New England. Jamieson stopped 49 of 60 shots and only gave up 11 goals for the third straight game.
Not to be overshadowed by Crawford heroics was Digby who had four goals and two assists of his own. It was his third hat trick of the season. Reilly O’Connor (1G, 6A) also had a big game for New England as he was playing his first game with an extra letter on his jersey, being named assistant captain in place of John LaFontaine who was put on injured reserve earlier in the week. With the looming suspension to Crawford, the Black Wolves will need to continue getting strong performances from Leblanc, Digby, and O’Connor, as well as Jamieson in net.
McLaughlin led the way for Colorado with four goals and three assists while Ryan Lee and Jacob Ruest each put two past Jamieson. Dillon Ward stopped 28 of 44 shots in a losing effort for the Mammoth.
New England will be off next weekend before traveling to Vancouver to play the Stealth on March 16th. The Black Wolves will be back in action at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday, March 31 for a 1 p.m. face-off with the Rochester Knighthawks.