After dropping the first round of the weekend home-and-home on Saturday night in Philadelphia, the New England Black Wolves (4-4) will welcome the Philadelphia Wings (2-7) to Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Saturday’s 14-10 victory for the Wings was the first installment of the National Lacrosse League’s newest rivalry. For the skeptics asking how the Wings, an expansion team, and the Black Wolves can have a rivalry, remember in 2014 the Philadelphia Wings left for New England and were rebranded as the Black Wolves. The surprise and abrupt move left a bitter taste in the mouths of Philadelphia fans, but the banners from the storied Philadelphia teams of the past are back to hanging in the Wells Fargo Center rafters as the franchise now plays their home games at Mohegan Sun Arena.
That brings us to this weekend. And this weekend could not have been planned any better for these two franchises with so much off-the-floor drama, to now establish the bad blood that is only necessary with everything that has gone on between the two.
As they take the floor on Sunday afternoon, less than 24 hours after their first matchup, the Black Wolves and Wings will need to have completely different game plans from Saturday night. The two arenas are much different and the smaller floor at Mohegan Sun Arena will perhaps be the fuel needed to light the fire under this rivalry.
For the Wings young roster, they will rely heavily on the unique knowledge of their midseason addition, Kevin Crowley. On the Philadelphia team littered with rookies, Crowley, is usually relied on to offensively carry the Wings but coming back to Philadelphia from New England will allow him to help his teammates to fully understand what they can expect on the back end of this weekend home-and-home on consecutive days.
Crowley, who sat out the beginning of the season in a contract dispute with New England was eventually traded to Philadelphia, where he started his career after the Wings drafted him in 2011. After three season in Philly, Crowley moved with the franchise to New England and became a household name in the NLL, mainly while wearing the Black Wolves’ black and orange.
Crowley put away four goals in Philadelphia’s win on Saturday night after going without a goal last week against Colorado. Though Philadelphia’s offense has seen its struggles, they have spread their goal scoring to a number of different players. Led by Crowley who has scored 14 goals in six games, the Wings have four players with at least 14 goals and a handful of players within striking distance of reaching double digits in goals. Kiel Matisz leads the team with 44 points (14G, 30A) and Josh Currier (16G, 9A) sets the pace in goals. Jordan Hall, who has struggled to score goals, is still one of the team’s biggest threats helping to generate offense with 25 helpers.
The Black Wolves have continued to lean on their big guns, Callum Crawford and Stephan Leblanc, while seeing spurts of their secondary scoring come to live at different points throughout the season. Leblanc had seven points (3G, 4A) on Saturday night, while Crawford had a rare game without a hat trick but still picked up six points (1G, 5A). Dereck Downs had his first career hat trick and Tyler Digby picked up five points in the loss. After a fiery start to the season, Reilly O’Connor has fallen off as of late and for the most part, he has been kept off the scoresheet in terms of goal scoring. O’Connor is a key player to watch as the Black Wolves look to make a playoff push in the highly competitive East Division.
Face off is set for 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon at Mohegan Sun Arena as the Black Wolves look to salvage a split in their weekend home-and-home with the Wings.