The New England Black Wolves (1-0) showed their teeth in the team’s inaugural game at Mohegan Sun Arena with a 12-8 win over the Buffalo Bandits (0-1) on Friday night as the National Lacrosse League opened its 29th season.
With a near-capacity crowd in attendance, New England took full advantage of strong special teams play. The team got a stellar showing in net from goaltender Evan Kirk, the game’s First Star, who also credited the fans as difference makers as well.
“The biggest thing for most guys is the atmosphere,” Kirk said. “Here you’ve got a few thousand people. It really gets you going. That adrenaline always plays a big role in games like this.”
The Black Wolves took a 6-5 lead into the half and never looked back. Their offense was propelled by four power play goals as the Bandits found themselves in penalty trouble throughout the game.
Buffalo struggled to take advantage of their own power play chances, including not scoring on a five-minute major penalty called on Mike McNamara for a high hit on Chad Culp. It took an additional penalty during the major to have the Bandits score a power play goal in a 5-on-3 situation.
Anthony Cosmo had a strong showing, stopping all but 12 of the 54 shots he faced. Black Wolves goaltender Evan Kirk, however, earned first star honors for stopping 48 of the 56 shots he faced with an .857 save percentage. The Black Wolves offense answered back after many Bandits goals and was led by #91 Kyle Buchanan, who finished with a game-high four goals, along with Pat Saunders who netted a hat trick.
The Black Wolves fought back after an early Bandits lead and maintained the same intensity throughout the game. With the win, New England made a statement and gets revenge against the Bandits after a 0-2 preseason series.
“We were 2-0 [against New England] in the preseason, but that means nothing because they had some kids in there that were trying to make the squad and we did as well,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “Preseasons just evaluate players. Plain and simple, we just have to work at will. It’s unacceptable.”
For the Black Wolves, the improvement in the team’s chemistry and overall performance from the preseason is a testament to the constant work that goes into creating a new name for themselves.
“Always improving…that’s every team’s goal,” Kirk said. “You have to draw a line and get better every week or else you’re not going to make those steps.”
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Evan Kirk
2) Kevin Crowley
3) Quinn Powless
The Bandits return home right away to take on the Edmonton Rush for the home opener at First Niagara Center on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Black Wolves host the Toronto Rock at Mohegan Sun Arena next weekend on Saturday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. ET.
Story by Alyssa McLaughlin (@BlackWolvesBeat) for NLL.com. Photo courtesy of Khoi Ton.