Reigning NLL MVP Shawn Evans had five goals while Pat Saunders added three as the New England Black Wolves (2-1) rolled to an 11-6 victory over the Georgia Swarm (1-2) on Sunday afternoon.
Two days after being held to just four points in New England’s (2-1) home opening loss, Evans (five goals, three assists) and Saunders (three goals, two assists) combined for 13 points in the victory. The five goals for Evans is a season-high, surpassing the four goals he scored in the Black Wolves’ season-opener at Vancouver on January 9th. Saunders’ hat trick was his second of the season, the first of which also came in Vancouver. Two of those goals tonight came on the power play, tying his career-high. Saunders has now scored two man-up goals three times in his career.
The Black Wolves fell behind 1-0 in the first, but Saunders picked up his first of the night with 3:23 remaining on an assist from Evans to wrap up the frame tied at one all. After a quick goal by Josh Gillom to put the Swarm (1-2) up 2-1, Evans scored twice in a one minute, 13 second span to put the Black Wolves up 3-2. Two more goals by Georgia put the Swarm up 4-3, but Saunders picked up his second power play goal of the night with 4:27 left in the second to tie it up at 4-4. Kevin Buchanan put the Black Wolves up 5-4 with 43 seconds left to put New England on top at the half.
Saunders wrapped up the hat trick with 10:06 left in the third to put New England ahead 6-4. Georgia would add one more goal with 5:49 remaining to pull back within one, but neither team found the back of the net again in the frame.
The fourth quarter belonged to New England, with Kyle Buchanan opening the scoring to put the Black Wolves back up by two, 7-5, on an unassisted goal 1:19 into play. Evans scored again, this time shorthanded, to put New England up 8-5 and Kevin Crowley scored one of his own to add to three assists to give the Black Wolves a four-goal lead at 9-5 with 9:22 left to play. Evans found the back of the net twice more in the final five minutes to solidify the win for New England.
Evan Kirk had 28 saves on 34 shots in goal for New England en route to his second win of the year. He has stopped 123 of 145 shots so far this season, an 84.8 percentage.
Gillam led the Swarm with two goals while Shayne Jackson had one goal and two assists.
Swarm captain Jordan MacIntosh scored the game’s final goal with one second left to play in the contest.
“I thought we played pretty well at times,” Georgia (1-2) head coach Ed Comeau said following the team’s loss. “We turned the ball over far too much… in this league, if you don’t have more energy than the other team, the score doesn’t work in your favor.”
Georgia forwards Miles Thompson (1G, 1A) and Josh Gillam (2G) both recorded their first goals of the 2016 campaign, while F Randy Staats (2A) improved upon a team-best point total with his two assists, improving to 15 total points on the year.
New England found early success on the man-advantage, converting on two of their first three power play opportunities, but the Swarm successfully killed off the final three penalties of the game. Georgia went 0-for-3 on man-advantages of their own.
Even with allowing 11 goals, Swarm backstop Brodie MacDonald had another solid night in net, stopping 36 shots in total. Through two games this year, MacDonald has stopped 71 of the 89 shots he’s faced, good enough for a 9.00 GAA.
“I thought Brodie was the least of our problems tonight,” Comeau said. “He played real well again and did a good job.”
Black Wolves netminder Evan Kirk turned away 28 of Georgia’s 34 shots, including 11 of 12 fourth quarter shots faced.