Game Preview

Black Wolves Take On Bandits in East Finals

The New England Black Wolves will have no margin for error Saturday night in Buffalo, where they face the top-seeded Bandits in Game 2 of the East Division Finals at 7:30 p.m. In the wake of a 15-10 loss on Monday night at Mohegan Sun Arena, the Black Wolves must win Game 2, then prevail in the 10-minute mini game that would follow a New England victory. Anything other than that scenario, and the Black Wolves’ season is over.

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The Black Wolves had everything going their way in the opening minutes of Game 1, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first 5:07 of the game. Kevin Buchanan, Pat Saunders and Kyle Buchanan scored while Saunders, Kyle Buchanan and Kevin Crowley had assists. But just as quickly, a power play helped turn it around as a Buffalo answered with three goals in a span of 3:24. Overall, the Bandits scored eight of the next nine goals after falling behind 3-0, and New England spent the rest of the night chasing Buffalo.

Kyle Buchanan has been quietly invaluable this season, and he continued to demonstrate his ability to impact the game in the loss to the Bandits, collecting three goals, two assists, leading the team with five points and 10 loose balls. In two playoff games, Buchanan has five goals, four assists and 19 loose balls. During the regular season, Buchanan set new single-season marks for goals (29) and loose balls (100) while also collecting 29 assists and 58 points. Buchanan earned his 200th career point and 300th loose ball at Georgia on April 15th.

Pat Saunders had a hat trick and an assist in the loss to Buffalo, enhancing what has already been the best season of his NLL career. During the regular season, Saunders had a career-best 15 multi-goal games, and he finished with new single-season highs for goals (44), assists (32), points (76) and loose balls (76). Saunders had a career-best seven hat tricks this year, and scored at least two goals in nine of the last 10 games this season. He led the team in goals (38) and points (68) in 2015. He has three goals and four assists in the2016 playoffs.

When he set the single-season NLL scoring record with 130 points on the way to MVP honors with the Calgary Roughnecks in 2015, Shawn Evans could have been excused if he thought his mark might stand for a while. But one season later, Buffalo’s Dhane Smith collected 137 points while also establishing a new league record for goals in a season with 72. The old mark was 71 by former Philadelphia Wings star Athan Iannucci in 2008. Evans still had a remarkable season, finishing with a career-high 50 goals while becoming the first NLL player to record four straight 100-point seasons. His 118 points were a franchise record, and he finished second to Smith in goals and points while leading the Black Wolves in goals, assists, points and loose balls. Smith (five goals, two assists) had the edge over Evans (one goal, two assists) in Game 1 of the East Division Finals. Evans, who scored the game-winner in overtime against Georgia in the first round of the playoffs, has five goals and four assists in the 2016 playoffs. He now has 41 goals and 53 assists in 23 postseason games over nine seasons with Rochester, Calgary and New England.

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