By Ray Lilley / NLL.com Correspondent
Photo Credit Kohi Ton
A win Sunday afternoon would mean a lot for the New England Black Wolves (3-5) against the Buffalo Bandits (2-5). It would have meant the Black Wolves were back at .500 for the first time since starting out the season with three loses. This was New England’s second chance at pulling even but doing it against Buffalo would have been so much sweeter.
The Black Wolves carried a 6-4 lead into the second half and it was quite the rollercoaster ride from there until the end. Buffalo outscored New England 5-2 in the third quarter and then a crazy 13 goal final frame ensued between the two before Buffalo defenseman, Mitch de Snoo intercepted a pass 25 seconds into overtime and broke free the other way to beat Evan Kirk on a breakaway.
De Snoo’s overtime winner gave Buffalo the must win that they needed with the threat of a 1-6 start looming over their heads after blowing multiple late leads. The Bandits started the fourth quarter with a lead and held the lead four more times before Kyle Buchanan scored to tie the game with 70 seconds remaining in regulation.
After winning in Buffalo on Friday night, New England was looking for the weekend home-and-home series sweep along with a clean mark in the season series between the two. This would have been sweet redemption for the Black Wolves after falling in the East Division Final against Buffalo last season.
The loss did not come without some offensive fireworks and an MVP performance by the Black Wolves captain, Shawn Evans.
Evans, already a two-time National Lacrosse League Most Valuable Player, recorded 12 points in the game with mirror sixes in the goal and assist columns. Evans was held without a goal on Friday night for the first time in nearly three years but made up for it on Sunday.
New England’s captain wasted no time getting back on the board, breaking the scoreless tie three minutes into the game with two goals in a span of 13 seconds. Evans completed his first hat trick of the game early in the second quarter giving his team the third of four three goal leads in the game.
The Black Wolves controlled most of the play in the first half but the Bandits scratched and clawed their way back to grab their first lead of the game 3:26 into the final period. That goal by Dhane Smith was one of his four goals on the afternoon and the first of two shorthanded goals in 12 seconds for the Bandits. Buffalo special teams added three power play goals for an impressive five special teams goals in the game.
New England tied the game five separate times in the fourth quarter but the last two were by far the most electrifying.
With Buffalo holding a 14-13 lead, Evans split a wall of defenders and beat Anthony Cosmo while flying through the air for a highlight reel goal that will be played over and over.
After the Bandits took the lead back 48 seconds later, Evans took it upon himself again picking off an ill-advised clear by a Buffalo defender and charging towards the goal. Evans’ speed, and probably his reputation of clutch goals, pulled multiple Buffalo defenders to the left of the crease before finding Kyle Buchanan with an over the head, backwards pass. Buchanan fired the game tying goal past Cosmo to send this one to overtime.
Cosmo made 37 saves for the Bandits.
Evans was not the only offensive star of the game for New England. Kevin Crowley contributed another hat trick, his third straight game with a hat trick and fifth of the season. Crowley added four assists to finish the game with seven points. Kevin Buchanan also had a big afternoon adding two goals and seven assists.
Buffalo outshot New England 63-52 in the game, forcing Kirk to make 47 saves, with a number of those being memorable.
The Black Wolves return to the box next Sunday, February 26 at Mohegan Sun Arena at 1:00 p.m. against the Colorado Mammoth.