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High Stakes: Black Wolves Host Swarm

The New England Black Wolves (3-6) return home for the first time since February 22 to take on the Minnesota Swarm (3-8) on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Watch live on UniversalSports.com (desktop/laptop) & Universal Sports Network app (mobile/tablet) in the U.S. and on TSN GO in Canada.

The Black Wolves fell to the Calgary Roughnecks 20-9 last weekend, and will look to right the ship as the second half of their season gets underway.

“Hats off to Calgary last week,” said Black Wolves head coach Blane Harrison. “They certainly demonstrated what a team needs to do when they are in a desperate and urgent situation. They came out and took it to us pretty good right out of the gate. They had us reeling a little bit.”

“We were really flat-footed this past weekend, and we really weren’t out on guys’ hands and in the lanes,” said Black Wolves defenseman Mike Manley. “They got off some really good shots. Calgary is a good team, and they had their way with us.”

The Black Wolves matched up well offensively with the Roughnecks, but the pack’s defense and goaltending did not show the same strength. Compared to Calgary’s Frankie Scigliano who had a .836 save percentage, Black Wolves goaltenders Evan Kirk and Tye Belanger combined for a .649 save percentage. With the Swarm coming into town for the second time this season, the pack is focused on learning from last weekend’s loss as they prepare for Sunday’s matchup.

“Hopefully we’ll take from the experience, learn from it, and move forward and bring it to bear this weekend,” noted Harrison. “Minnesota and ourselves are fighting to get into the playoffs, and both teams are desperate and both teams need a win. It should be a very hotly-contested affair for both teams.”

“It’s just exciting to play them,” Manley said. “Right now, we’re split 1-1 with them. We were able to go out to Minnesota and take one from them. We’ve just got to come out firing on all cylinders. I feel like the last couple of games, we were slow coming out of the gate, so hopefully we can avoid that. Practice on Saturday will help that for sure.”

The first time the Black Wolves and Swarm faced off, Minnesota won by a score of 19-13. This started a five-game skid that New England recently ended by beating the Swarm, 10-9. The matchups between these two teams are always fast-paced, and this third game will be no different. However, with a tough 11-goal loss and the recent acquisition of Drew Petkoff from the Buffalo Bandits, the Black Wolves continue to be in a state of constant readjustments.

“Obviously when you come out of a game like the one we played last week, you have to reevaluate basically every position from top to bottom,” Harrison admitted. “We may be changing some things up from a lineup perspective. Anything short of blowing it all up is really fair game at this point in time.”

Though Week 13 games have not officially started yet, the Black Wolves are looking at the rest of their schedule with a clear sense of urgency. Up until now, they have had multiple bye weeks and a basic mix of home and road games. The month of April brings a heavy schedule and a chance to get themselves in the playoffs in their debut season. The pack’s performance this weekend could help set the tone for the playoff race.

“Everyone is playing with some kind of urgency,” said Harrison. “Who rises up and plays with it seems to be the question.”

The Swarm will look to end the team’s six-game losing streak this weekend. The Swarm are coming off of a loss in Buffalo last weekend where they allowed the Bandits to open the game with five-straight goals before answering back.

“That’s one of the things we addressed after the game was the slow start and the energy we had at the beginning of the game,” said Swarm assistant coach Aime Caines. “So we’re going to address that at practice on Saturday and try to have a good practice and get the guys up for the game on Sunday. We can’t afford to have a slow start like we did in Buffalo or you’re playing catch up the whole game.”

Minnesota did play catch up for the rest of the game and ended up losing 12-8. Swarm forwards Miles Thompson, Shayne Jackson, and Callum Crawford each had two goals and two assists in the game. With teams in the league continuing to pressure and a last place position in the East Division, the Swarm understand the urgency of this weekend.

“We’ve just got to put it all together, offensively, defensively, and goaltending for a full 60 minutes and we’re gonna have the outcome we want,” said Caines. “Until that happens, you can see what happens in this league with the quality of teams, so you really have to focus and put everything together.”

“We’re going to make some adjustments on Saturday. Our offense has been playing better, they’re getting better shot selections. We’ve gotten a few bad bounces and a lot of pipes but we still want to do the same things offensively and defensively,” Caines said. “We tighten up and play more aggressive and play with some more grit.”

The last time the two teams met was on Swarm turf and the Black Wolves took the edge at the end of the game to secure the win. Likewise, Minnesota is hoping to hand the defeat to New England this weekend.

“No one likes losing. Everybody in this league is here to compete and we’re obviously on a huge spit here and it’s something we’ve got to turn around,” said Swarm captain Andrew Suitor. “New England’s a great team and they took one from us at our home. We’ve got to go into a great atmosphere there at the Mohegan Sun and try to steal two points from them.”

By Alyssa McLaughlin (@BlackWolvesBeat) & Maria Jollie (@SwarmBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Khoi Ton.