Uncasville – With the second seed and a home playoff game on the line for both teams, the New England Black Wolves rallied from a five goal deficit in the last 10 minutes of regulation only to see the Vancouver Stealth pull out a 17-16 win in overtime on Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Leading 16-15 in the closing seconds of regulation, the Black Wolves had the second seed in the East Division within their grasp, which would have meant a home game against the Toronto Rock next weekend.
But with a crowd of 6,326 preparing to celebrate, Corey Small (four goals, three assists) beat goalie Evan Kirk with 18 seconds left to force overtime
In an extended and intense extra session, both teams had their chances. But after Kevin Buchanan (four goals, two assists) hit the left goal post with what would have been the game-winner for New England, Small struck again.
Shortly after Small’s goal, Toronto (9-9) finished off a victory at Buffalo to lock up the second seed in the East Division. New England (8-10) will travel to Toronto (9-9) to face the second-seeded Rock on Saturday at 7 p.m. If New England wins – the Black Wolves were 2-0 against the Rock this season – it will host top-seeded Georgia on Friday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. EST.
In a game that featured 10 ties and 11 lead changes, Vancouver (9-9) appeared to take complete control of the game when it strung together six straight goals to build a 15-10 lead. Four of those goals came in a span of two minutes, 16 seconds early in the fourth quarter.
But then the Black Wolves exploded for six goals in the next five minutes, 11 seconds. In order, it was Kevin Buchanan, Shawn Evans (one goal, eight assists), Kevin Buchanan again, Kyle Buchanan (one goal, two assists), Chad Culp (two goals, one assist) and Kevin Crowley (five goals, two assists).
That put the Black Wolves – who fired a franchise record 82 shots at former New England backup goalie Tye Belanger – up 16-15 with 3:17 left.
Both teams had chances to add to their goal total, but Kirk and Belanger were up to the challenge until Small found the back of the net in the final seconds.
Evans became the first player in NLL history to string together five straight 100-point seasons while Jay Thorimbert became just the third player in NLL history to win 2,000 faceoffs. He needed 16 and finished 20 of 38 in the faceoff circle while also collecting a game-high 10 loose balls.