Uncasville, Conn. – Brett Bucktooth, Mark Cockerton and Pat Saunders each scored twice for the Black Wolves on Sunday afternoon, but it was not enough as New England fell to Vancouver 11-9 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
New England is still holding out hopes of qualifying for the National Lacrosse League playoffs, but the margin of error is non-existent following the loss. With five games remaining in the season, all against East Division opponents, the Black Wolves (4-9) likely need to run the table to make the postseason.
“I guess the silver lining is the fact that we do have five division games against Eastern opponents that are ahead of us,” New England coach Blane Harrison said after watching his team score just nine goals on a franchise-record 67 shots. “The big one is certainly Toronto, but then we get Buffalo twice.”
Things began promisingly for the Black Wolves, who jumped out to a 2-0 lead just under nine minutes into the game on goals from Brett Bucktooth and Brian Megill, who found the back of the net for the first time in his career after a beautiful end-to-end rush with 6:06 remaining in the first quarter. New England began the day 4-0 when scoring first.
But the Stealth (4-10) – who lost their sixth straight, 14-7, on Friday night in Toronto – came to life.
A goal by Cliff Smith with 4:23 left in the first quarter began a string of five unanswered scores, including goals by Corey Small and Joel McCready (three goals, one assist) in a span of 24 seconds during the last minute of the first quarter. Rhys Duch capped that outburst with the first of his two goals 1:05 into the second quarter, and the Stealth were up 5-2.
Late in the half, rookie Cockerton provided a spark with two goals in a span of 1:33, pulling the Black Wolves within 5-4 at the half. It was the third two-goal game of the season for Cockerton, who has four goals and six assists in his last three games.
“We always talk about, when we dig ourselves a hole, trying to get someone to step up and get a couple of goals and get us out of it,” Cockerton explained. “Luckily, I had two there that kind of got us back in the game.”
But just 2:34 into the second half, Duch scored the first of three unanswered Vancouver goals, pushing the Stealth lead back to 8-4. The Black Wolves could not get closer than two the rest of the way.
Looking to win at Mohegan Sun Arena for the first time since January 10th against Rochester, the Black Wolves had plenty of point-blank looks at goalie Eric Penney while racking up a franchise-record shot total.
“They had 11 (goals), we had nine,” Harrison said. “Our shooting percentage wasn’t very good. We’re not very good shooters right now. We’re not finishing and that was the difference in the game.”
Evan Kirk took the loss for the Black Wolves, making 36 saves. In his first game at Mohegan Sun Arena, Garrett Billings had one goal and three assists for New England. Cockerton had three assists to go along with his two goals for a team-high five points.
New England will be in action next on Friday, April 17th at Toronto. Game time is 7:30 p.m.