Vancouver – Glenn Clark did not have to wait long for his first victory as head coach of the New England Black Wolves.
Pat Saunders, New England’s leading scorer last year, had a first-half hat trick on the way to four goals, five assists and a single-game career-high nine points as the Black Wolves romped to a 17-7 victory over the Vancouver Stealth at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday night.
It was the highest scoring game of the season in the National Lacrosse League so far in 2016, and an impressive start for the Black Wolves, who were 4-14 last year.
Newcomer Shawn Evans – a two-time NLL MVP acquired from Calgary during the offseason in a three-team deal that involved Vancouver – had four goals and two assists. Evans had career-highs of 47 goals, 83 assists and 130 points last year, posting his third straight 100-point season. He is expected to have a major impact on the Black Wolves attack in 2016.
The Black Wolves also received stellar goal-tending from Evan Kirk, who had 49 saves. He turned away a number of point-black attempts, continually frustrating the Stealth.
After a tightly-contested first quarter ended with the teams tied 3-3, goals from Saunders, Kevin Buchanan (one goal, four assists) and Shane MacDonald (two goals) in a span of one minute, 43 seconds early in the second quarter staked the Black Wolves to a 6-3 lead.
The Stealth never got closer than two goals the rest of the way.
And shortly after Vancouver crept within 9-7 on a goal three minutes into the second half by veteran forward Rhys Duch (two goals, two assists), New England responded with seven straight goals, including a remarkable over-the-shoulder score by Evans. By the time Kyle Buchanan scored on a power play with 7:15 remaining in the game, the Black Wolves had a commanding 16-7 lead.
Kyle Buchanan chipped in with a hat trick while Kevin Crowley had a goal while tying a career-high with five assists. Ryan Hotaling had his first goal in a Black Wolves uniform. He also won 13 face-offs and played active defense all night. Brett Manney also scored for New England in the victory.
The Black Wolves return home to host Calgary on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena.