Uncasville, CT – Playing at Mohegan Sun Arena for the first time in 2017, the New England Black Wolves gave the first sellout crowd in franchise history reason to celebrate, edging the Buffalo Bandits 13-12 on a goal by Kevin Crowley with 57 seconds remaining.
“I saw Patty (Pat Saunders) winding up and I had a clear lane to the goal,” said Crowley, explaining how he positioned himself to catch the rebound of Saunders’ missed shot before firing it past Buffalo goalie Davide DiRuscio. “Like I tell my basketball team I coach back in Philly, ‘You have to crash the boards. I was fortunate. Pat pulled the shot wide and it came right to my stick and I had the open net.”
Buffalo (1-3), which swept New England (1-3) in the East Division Finals of the NLL playoffs last year, threatened a couple of times in the closing seconds. But the Black Wolves held on, touching off a celebration among the 7,074 fans in attendance.
“It was a huge game for us, I didn’t want to let this game slip,” said Shawn Evans, who had two of his three goals within a 44-second span early in the fourth quarter to help turn the game in New England’s favor. “The energy in the building was unbelievable tonight. It was electrifying out there. Having them behind us was a huge part of our success.”
Crowley (three goals, four assists) posted his second hat trick of the year while Evans (three goals, five assists) and Pat Saunders (two goals, four assists) also had big offensive nights. Kyle Buchanan and former Bandit Chad Culp also had two goals each. Another former Bandit, Jay Thorimbert, won a season-high 20 faceoffs on 29 attempts.
“And that was one of the things with getting Jay, those possessions down the stretch are big because if you score, you keep the ball,” coach Glenn Clark said. “He has been as advertised.”
Trailing 10-9 early in the fourth quarter, the Black Wolves exploded for three goals in a span of 1:46 –Evans connected twice and Kyle Buchanan had the third goal – as New England moved out to a 12-10 lead.
Buffalo answered with goals by Craig England and David Brock, however, setting up a frantic last few minutes.
“I would have liked a little bit more of a cushion,” Clark said with a smile. “But from a fan’s perspective, what else do you want? If you want to sell the game, that sells the game. It’s not good for me, personally, but it’s good for the team, good for the product. The reality of it is this is what we expect. This is the NLL.”
New England hosts Rochester next Friday night at 7:30 p.m.