Coming into Sunday afternoon’s contest the New England Black Wolves knew they could not afford to lose any more games. The Black Wolves were sitting in last place in the competitive East Division, but they were only a game and a half out of first with four games remaining.
New England was hosting the Calgary Roughnecks who were visiting Mohegan Sun Arena for the first time since 2016. The Roughnecks had won all three matchups between the two clubs until Sunday when they faced a desperate Black Wolves team. They were two similar teams, with the same record, but in very different situations. New England was on the outside looking in while Calgary had already clinched the third, and final playoff spot in the West.
This game did not start out looking good for the Black Wolves as they gave up the opening goal for the 12th time in 15 games this season. Wesley Berg made New England pay for an early illegal substitution penalty as he opened the scoring just 2:23 into the game.
About two minutes later a quick transition goal from Callum Crawford tied the score for New England. But then it started to get ugly and it looked like the Black Wolves were letting this one get away early.
As a New England power play ended an errant pass in the offensive zone was picked off by Dane Dobbie coming out of the box who went the other way. The initial shot on the fast break was stopped by Aaron Bold but the ball bounced in the air and came down with some Masters Sunday spin, sending it backwards into the net.
Calgary leading scorer and NLL shot leader, Curtis Dickson scored power play goal early in the 2nd quarter for a 3-1 Roughnecks lead. A few minutes later Berg found Holden Cattoni all alone at the top of the crease who beat Aaron Bold for a three goal lead.
Just when New England’s offense started gaining some momentum Dan MacRae found a loose ball and went end-to-end to start a tic-tac-toe play that was finished off by Mitch Wilde to extend the Calgary lead to 5-1. Crawford got one back to end an 18 minute scoreless draught for the Black Wolves but Cattoni quickly answered to get the Calgary lead back to four with five minutes to go in the first half.
New England finished off the first half with goals from Johnny Powless, Mark Cockerton, and Crawford to cut the Calgary lead to one before halftime.
Berg started off the second half just like he started the game, putting another ball past Bold 2:48 into play. Soon after, Nick Chaykowsky was given a five minute major for head butting and it all could have unraveled for New England as Dickson scored 42 seconds into the major penalty to put Calgary ahead 8-5.
The Black Wolves penalty kill then started to give the Roughnecks a taste of their own medicine as they looked to make a comeback. Coming into the game, Calgary led the NLL with nine shorthanded goals on the season. New England scored four on Sunday against Calgary, including three while killing off Chaykowsky’s five minute major.
New England took their first lead of the game when Kevin Crowley started the 4th quarter with two goals in the first 1:28 of the final frame. The two goals from Crowley finished off his sixth straight hat trick as he kept his goal scoring streak going to an incredible 34 consecutive games.
Calgary’s Cattoni answered two minutes later to complete a hat trick of his own and tie the score at 10. Crawford scored his game-high, fifth goal of the game to give the Black Wolves an 11-10 lead with just under five minutes remaining.
The Roughnecks then retook the lead late, getting goals from Dobbie and Berg who completed their own hat tricks.
As the clock ran down and New England pulled Aaron Bold, the desperation really started to show. After a timeout with 13 seconds left, the Black Wolves needed a goal to keep their playoff hopes alive. They got what they desperately needed when Stephan Leblanc got one past Christian Del Bianco with only 6.7 seconds left in regulation.
The Black Wolves wasted no time in the extra period as Powless capped off a much needed comeback win, 47 seconds in. The goal was Powless’ second of the game as New England got offensive contributions from 12 different players. The balanced offensive attack has been something that the Black Wolves have been looking for as of late and something that will need to continue as they push for a playoff spot.
The win gets New England to within one game of first place in the East with three games remaining. The Black Wolves will travel to Colorado next weekend before finishing off the regular season with two games against teams from the East, on the road in Rochester and home against Georgia. New England will be back at Mohegan Sun Arena for that regular season finale with Georgia on April 29th at 5:00 p.m. EST in what should be a very important matchup with plenty on the line.