The New England Black Wolves (3-5) ended its five-game losing streak by edging the Minnesota Swarm (3-6) by a score of 10-9 in a down-to-the-wire game in front of a crowd of 8,912 at Xcel Energy Center. Incredible goals were scored and challenged, punches were thrown, goaltending was on point, and the outcome wasn’t certain until the very last second. The game was everything the rambunctious Minnesota crowd was looking for on a Saturday night.
“I’ve not seen it come alive like it has, today was just outstanding. You could feel the energy and the players felt the energy,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “It seemed like that was our driving factor for the last six, seven minutes of that fourth quarter. A little bit longer, a few seconds more and I think we probably would have had that tied up.”
Within 10 seconds of the first face-off, gloves were dropped by Swarm captain Andrew Suitor and Black Wolves defenseman Bill O’Brien to set the tone for the game; neither team was going to back down.
New England forwards Pat Saunders (1+0) and Mark Cockerton (2+3) started the scoring in the first quarter. Minnesota didn’t answer until halfway through the quarter, but they answered in a big way. Forward Dean Hill (3+0) was the first Swarm offense to attack, followed by two in-a-row from Jordan MacIntosh (3+2) to give Minnesota a lead that they wouldn’t give up until the fourth quarter.
“I thought the guys worked really hard, the effort was great,” said Sullivan. “The compete level was incredible, so I’m very happy to see that.”
Going into the fourth quarter, the Swarm had the edge by a narrow margin of 6-5. The Black Wolves completed a six-goal scoring run, started by captain Joel White (2+0) in the middle of the third quarter. New England forward Jamie Lincoln (2+0) scored his two consecutive power play goals to start the fourth quarter and eventually take a 9-6 lead before Minnesota responded.
“We hit a slump there, we couldn’t get anything going. Then Jamie Lincoln stepped up, got a couple of huge goals for us and I got a big one there, which was really nice,” Cockerton said. “Our defense played well all night.”
Corbyn Tao (1+0) started another scoring streak for the Swarm with five minutes left in the game. A goal by NLL Rookie of the Month for February Miles Thompson (1+4) ignited the team and the crowd. Dean Hill tied the game up with under three minutes to go and the roar of the crowd was deafening.
“The crowd, not just tonight, but every night, they’re always great,” Hill said. “That’s why they’re the best fans in the league. We’re going to keep going for our next home game to try our best to get them the win.”
New England, who hasn’t won a game since January 10th against Rochester, was desperate for the win, and they delivered. The game-winning goal came from forward Kevin Crowley (1+3) with just over one minute left in the game.
“It was a sense of urgency. We didn’t want to have to say we lost six in a row. The game was right there for us, so it was just a matter of digging deep and going on a run,” said Black Wolves head coach Blane Harrison. “A couple of goals went in and there we were. We wanted to come out and just focus on limiting mental mistakes, I thought we did that for the most part. And Evan Kirk played a very good game.”
Former Swarm player Evan Kirk stood in goal for the Black Wolves and saved 34 of 43 shots. In goal for the Swarm was Zach Higgins, who gave up 10 goals on 51 shots. New England went 3 for 5 on the powerplay with one shorthanded goal by Joel White in the second quarter. Minnesota was 2 for 4 with special teams.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Mark Cockerton
2) Dean Hill
3) Evan Kirk
Tonight’s game was the first of a back-to-back weekend for the Swarm. The team was without forward Logan Schuss due to a work commitment and assistant captain Callum Crawford, who has a lower body injury.
“We’re a wounded team right now, to say the least. So we’re just going to have to get the most out of every single player,” Sullivan said. “The expectation is that they go get some good rest, they stretch themselves out, they’re preprepared for tomorrow. Because everything is starting to fall into place, so if you want to be in that playoff contention, you’re going to have to take care of it yourself. Tomorrow’s a big test for us.”
The Swarm have a short turn-around as they visit the Colorado Mammoth on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on WatchESPN in the U.S. and TSN GO in Canada. The Black Wolves play next on Friday, March 20 in Calgary at 9 p.m. ET live on NLL LIVE in the U.S. and TSN GO.
Story by Maria Jollie (@SwarmBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Scott Pierson.