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Stories/Op-Ed

New England gets a New Start at Home

Three weeks into the season and the rematch of last year’s East Division Final has a much different feel. Two teams with high expectations are simply looking to find their way. New England (0-3) is finally back home at Mohegan Sun Arena looking to avenge their season ending loss to rival Buffalo (1-2) in the 2016 East Division Final.

“It’s always an intense matchup. We are not excited about our record or the position we are in,” Black Wolves head coach Glenn Clark said. “But that doesn’t change what we do or how we prepare for the weekend.”

One weekend and one team at a time is how Clark keeps his team looking forward rather than dwelling on the disappointment from the three games behind them.

After a major struggle in week one at Rochester, the Black Wolves seemed to find something late in a thrilling game on the road in Colorado. With four goals in the fourth quarter to tie it, Clark’s bunch eventually lost in overtime but there was a lot to be happy about. They showed grit, tenacity, and fight as they battled back to tie the game in the final frame. The offense was there with captain Shawn Evans, assistant captain Kyle Buchanan, and Pat Saunders scoring twice, while Kevin Crowley put three in the net. But they did not finish where it means the most.

With the positives came the negatives and the deflating overtime loss meant a Georgia hangover for the Black Wolves.

Now Coach Clark brings his team home with a goose egg in the win column, but they know there is still time to turn the season around.

“Our challenge right now is to find the answers,” Clark emphasized. “This needs to be the start because in an 18 game schedule you can’t keep looking to next week. And these guys know we need a change.”

That change starts and ends with the offense.

Coming in to the season the Black Wolves offense looked to be high powered and the focal point of the squad. With high expectations and looking to make the next step, this team that came within one round of the NLL Championship is now back to the drawing board and looking to simplify their game.

“As opposed to just playing they feel like it’s too scripted,” Clark explained. “Those guys are artists and they need to paint a little bit.”

Clark admitted that his game plans may be to blame for his team’s early struggles. His skilled players need to loosen up and find their rhythm – which is easier said than done with the lingering anxiety after an 0-3 start, but Clark has confidence that his veteran leadership can turn this thing around.

“The players know they are accountable. We just simply haven’t been good enough.” Clark spoke about his conversations with the team’s leadership, “We’ve talked to some of the guys and we need more of who they are and what they were (last season).”

Now they come home – the only team not to play at home yet. For the Black Wolves, it is a blessing in disguise. It is the perfect time for a skilled group to regain their confidence and hit the reset button. They have 15 games left and Mohegan Sun Arena is exactly what they need.

“We are very excited,” Clark said about returning home where his team was 6-3 in 2016. “There is a level of comfort. We feel like we got some momentum last year playing at home. That building is bright, and loud, and lively. It’s an exciting atmosphere to be a part of.”

NLL