Rochester, N.Y. – The New England Black Wolves led by two goals on three different occasions in the first half of its season opener against the Rochester Knighthawks Saturday night at Connors & Ferris, LLP Field at Blue Cross Arena.
But a run of seven unanswered Rochester goals that began with 40 seconds left in the first half and extended into the sixth minute of the fourth quarter helped the Knighthawks (1-1) build a 10-5 lead on the way to a 15-8 win.
Any lingering hopes of a comeback after goals by Reilly O’Connor and Kevin Crowley 27 seconds apart pulled the Black Wolves to within 10-7 with 8:48 left in the game ended when Josh Currier scored a power play goal with 8:30 remaining.
Rochester, which had been routed 12-5 by visiting Toronto on December 29th, converted nine of 10 power play opportunities. Currier (three goals, two assists) and Stephen Keogh (three goals, three assists) each had had tricks for Rochester while Kyle Jackson had nine assists and two goals.
Pat Saunders, who set new career marks with 44 goals, 32 assists, 76 points and 15 multiple-goal games in 2016 for New England, had two goals and an assist. Crowley (one goal, three assists) and Shawn Evans (one goal, two assists) also contributed offensively while Evan Kirk made 45 saves.
New England led 2-0, 4-2 and 5-3, but the game began turning in Rochester’s favor when former Black Wolves’ draft pick Quinn Powless scored with 40 seconds left in the half to pull the Knighthawks within 5-4 at intermission.
The game got away from New England in the third quarter as goals from Jackson (5:44 into the quarter), Wayne Van Every (7:38), Dan Lomas (10:28) and Scott Campbell (13:35) gave Rochester an 8-5 lead.
Early on it looked promising for New England.
Just 3:47 into the game, free agent acquisition Chad Culp combined with Kevin Buchanan to assist on the first goal of the game, and the season, by Kyle Buchanan. Culp then scored his first goal as a member of the Black Wolves later in the quarter to give New England an early 2-0 lead.
Two goals by Saunders and a single goal by Evans helped continue to keep the Black Wolves in front moving toward the end of the half.
But then the late goal by Powless made it 5-4, and sparked Rochester’s comeback.
New England will be at Colorado next Saturday. Game time is set for 9 p.m. Eastern.