Four-time defending world indoor lacrosse champion Canada has long been the dominant power in the sport, but New England Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark admits he was surprised by the lopsided score of the Heritage Cup game against Team USA in Hamilton, Ontario on Saturday.
“Certainly not that margin of victory,” Clark said, referring to Canada’s 19-6 win. “Canada has a healthy fear of the U.S. We never go into those games thinking we are the favorite. We prepare for it. We get in the right head space. They’re talented, good lacrosse players.”
Black Wolves’ forward Shawn Evans had two goals and three assists for Canada while New England veteran Brett Manney anchored the defense for Team USA. Clark served as an assistant coach on Canada’s staff.
Saturday marked the beginning of what will be many busy weekends for Clark, who will open his third training camp as head coach of the Black Wolves on Friday. Like any successful professional, Clark is always looking for ways to improve.
This year, he plans to do more with less in training camp. There will be more teaching. There will be fewer players.
“In prior years, we’ve had bigger groups and kind of let them sort themselves out through game play,” said Clark, explaining the difference in his approach as he begins his third season. “(This year) we’ve kept the camp leaner and meaner. Numbers are smaller, so everyone involved legitimately has a shot.”
Clark has guided the Black Wolves to the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons. But he understands that examining all aspects of the team with a critical eye is a crucial part of the offseason, regardless of the record.
This offseason, the goal was to improve defense and transition. A trade that sent goalie Evan Kirk to Saskatchewan allowed the Black Wolves to acquire veteran defenseman John Lafontaine, goalie Aaron Bold and the eighth pick in the 2017 NLL Entry Draft. The Black Wolves used that pick to draft Anthony Joaquim, one pick after selecting midfielder Colton Watkinson at No. 7. Both rookies add speed and athleticism to the roster.
“I think one of the big things we identified is athleticism and stick skills,” Clark said. “Being able to pick it up, keep it up. We had way too many turnovers in transition. Picking it up, throwing it away and now you have to play defense for another thirty seconds. We wanted to be a little more dangerous in transition.”
Clark and his staff will not have to wait very long to find out how the re-tooled Black Wolves stack up in 2018. New England hosts the defending champion Georgia Swarm in the season opener on December 8th at Mohegan Sun Arena, and will visit Champions Cup runner-up Saskatchewan on December 23rd.
“When the season ends, you’re always evaluating, trying to identify areas of strength, areas of improvement,” Clark said. “Every year, you try to identify things you can do better. The focus is always going to be about hitting the ground running.”