New England Black Wolves (3-6) at Toronto Rock (5-3)
At Air Canada Centre
Friday, March 3rd, 7:30 p.m.
Live on NLLTV.com
Last Game: The Black Wolves fell 14-9 at home last week to the Colorado Mammoth on February 26th. The Toronto Rock lost 15-12 on the road to the Buffalo Bandits on February 25th.
Players to Watch: New England – Reilly O’Connor (seven goals, 11 assists) led the charge for New England last week against Colorado. He had two goals and three assists. Kevin Crowley (23 goals, 20 assists) leads the Black Wolves this season in goals and is second on the team in points (43). He had one goal and two assists in the loss. Seth Oakes (three goals, four assists) also contributed two goals on four shots in the game.
Toronto – Brett Hickey (17 goals, 13 assists) is currently leading Toronto in goals scored this season, and is second on the team in points (30). He had two goals and two assists in last week’s loss to the Buffalo Bandits. Stephan Leblanc (seven goals, 18 assists) ranks third on the Rock in assists, and added two goals and two assists in the game. Turner Evans (seven goals, 22 assists) is second on the team in assists and third in points (29) through eight games this season. He had two goals and an assist last week against the Bandits.
- New England was 2-0 against Toronto last season.
- Shawn Evans (eight goals, 11 assists), Kevin Crowley (seven goals, three assists) and Kevin Buchanan (one goal, six assists) led the Black Wolves in scoring in two games against the Toronto Rock during the 2016 regular season.
- Rob Hellyer (five goals, nine assists), Stephan Leblanc (six goals, five assists) and Josh Sanderson (one goal, seven assists) led the Rock in scoring in two games against New England last season.
- Reilly O’Connor had his third multi-goal game of his NLL career, and registered season highs in both assists (three) and points (five) in last week’s loss to the Mammoth.
- Seth Oakes recorded his first NLL career multi-goal game last week against Colorado.
- Doug Jamieson registered career-highs in goalie minutes played (26), saves (21) and shots against (25) last week.
- Jay Thorimbert has collected 10 or more loose balls in six of his last seven games for the Black Wolves.
- New England has allowed the most goals against (119) in the NLL through nine games this season. In eight games, Toronto has allowed the fewest goals against (76).
- Shawn Evans (19 goals, 36 assists) currently ranks fourth in the NLL in scoring, third in assists and third in penalty minutes (35).
- Kevin Crowley ranks fourth in the league in goals scored and ninth in overall scoring through nine games this season.
- Shawn Evans leads the league in shots (157) while Kevin Crowley sits in fourth with 120.
- Nick Rose is currently the top ranked goalie in the NLL this season. He is third in the league in goalie wins (five), second in goalie minutes (480:45), fourth in saves (296) and leads the league in save percentage (.798).
- Tom Schreiber (12 goals, 29 assists) leads the league in rookie scoring through eight games this season. He is currently second in rookie goals scored and leads all rookies in assists.
- New England leads the NLL in power-play goals allowed (30) as well as short-handed goals scored (nine).
- New England (.448) and Toronto (.409) are the two lowest ranked teams in the league on the power play this season.
- Toronto (9.50) leads the league with the lowest goals against average.
- New England (502 shots) leads the NLL in shots per game (55.78).
- Kevin Crowley has scored a goal in every game for New England this season.
- Toronto scored a league high 50 team points on 18 goals and 32 assists in an 18-10 win over the Buffalo Bandits on February 3rd.
New England Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark
“It’s certainly a huge game this week in the division and start of the second half. We obviously didn’t have the start we wanted. We’re not quite in do-or-die territory, but we’re certainly running out of opportunities to put ourselves in a position to be comfortably in the playoffs. We’re sort of looking at this as a start of the second half, a fresh start, and hopefully turning this around.”
How does the trade of Pat Saunders effect you?
“It makes us different. Pat was a pure goal scorer, a real pure shooter. We’ve added Daryl (Veltman), and with the emergence of Reilly O’Connor, we think that makes us a little bit more active offensively, a little bit more of an inside threat with guys setting picks, cutting to the middle, being more of an inside presence. I think you saw a little bit of that with Daryl and Reilly in the Colorado game. They had quite a few inside looks, didn’t convert on them, but at least the opportunities were there. I think it sort of changes our framework, a little bit more active from our left side, a little more of an inside game, which we think in the totality of our offense, based on how well our righties play, will make us stronger. It’s not ideal. The challenge is you need to trade these guys out of your division, and you can’t trade them to a rival, but you don’t always have that opportunity. You don’t get to select who wants a player. When teams contact you and say they will be interested, you’re in a bit of a reactionary position because you decide if you want to make a change, and if you do, you’re sort of limited to who wants to make that change with you. The simple answer is you have to trade guys to the West, but the reality of it is that is the simple answer because it’s not always there. Pat’s a shooter, he’s a goal scorer. For whatever reason, he was struggling this year. When we looked at our offense, the ball stays in the righties’ sticks a lot with Evans and Crowley, they attack a lot with the ball. We felt like we needed more activity, more balance from that left side because Pat’s a guy that needs to find his space and wait to get that shot off. What happens is you start to become a little bit stationary offensively if you have too many of those players that want, need and wait for the ball. We feel that in the totality of our offense, it makes us a little more active, a little more dynamic. Time will tell, but we think it’s going to make us a little more balanced and a little more dangerous.”
If Pat is traded, does that mean that Shawn’s injury is now long-term, or do you expect him to play this week?
“Shawn (Evans) will not play this week. He went for x-rays this weekend, they’re trying to get him back down for an MRI, so he will not play this weekend. I hope it’s a week-to-week thing, I’m not even sure. I don’t know the severity yet. They want to do an MRI and see what the extent of the damage is. We’re all hoping it’s not a long-term thing, but at this point we really don’t know.”
Is this a bad time to be in a state of flux when you have Toronto up next?
“The reality is we’re struggling. You can either keep doing what you’re doing, or you can try and make some changes. I think we ran with the status quo for a while, and we tried to tweak it internally and make adjustments, and we didn’t break free of the mediocrity that we’re in. You can’t stay in that place forever, so we had to try and look at it from the outside looking in and see what we could do to make us better and give us better results.”
Are you guys in the market for another trade possibly, or looking to bring in some other talent to kind of help jumpstart the team?
“I think that happens all year. Rich (Lisk) is in constant dialogue with the general managers around the league, and they are always discussing different things because you always have areas that you identify that you would like to strengthen. The challenge is you have to give something to get something. That’s the balancing act – are you giving too much to get what you need? Are you weakening yourself in one area to improve in the others? That’s always a challenge. That dialogue goes on all year. I’m sure it will heat up closer to the trade deadline, but Rich is always having those conversations with different teams and different GM’s.”
Next Game: The New England Black Wolves return home on March 12th to host the Georgia Swarm at 1:00 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena. For more details, visit www.blackwolves.com.