Game Preview

Game Preview: New England at Colorado

Last Game: New England scored in the closing seconds of regulation to secure a 16-15 victory over the visiting Georgia Swarm on February 28th; Colorado rallied from a 9-4 deficit, outscoring Vancouver 7-1 in the fourth quarter with a goal in the final second clinching an 11-10 victory at home on February 27th.

Players to watch:
New England – 2015 NLL MVP Shawn Evans (22 goals, 30 assists, 52 points, 50 loose balls) was one of three Black Wolves players with three goals against Georgia, and he also had a season-high seven assists and a career-high 11 loose balls. Kevin Crowley (17 goals, 19 assists, 36 points) had three goals and three assists against the Swarm. Pat Saunders (18 goals, 12 assists, 30 points, 23 loose balls) and Kevin Buchanan (nine goals, 21 assists and 30 assists) also lead the offense. Goalie Evan Kirk leads the NLL with a .797 save percentage.

Colorado – Callum Crawford (16 goals, 39 assists, 55 points) leads Colorado in points and assists, and ranks No. 2 in the NLL in points. 2012 NLL Rookie of the Year Adam Jones (27 goals, 18 assists, 45 points) leads the team in goals. John Grant (17 goals, 29 assists, 46 points) is another major scoring threat. Goalie Ward Dillon leads the NLL with a 10.47 goals-against average. Dan Coates (84 of 179) is winning 50 percent of his face-offs.

Noteworthy:

  • This is the first meeting this season with Colorado. The Mammoth won the only meeting between the teams last season, 14-12, at Mohegan Sun Arena on February 22, 2015.
  • Black Wolves veteran Andrew Suitor returns to the lineup for the first time since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last April 17th.
  • New England coach Glenn Clark and Colorado coach Pat Coyle won four NLL titles together as defensemen with the Toronto Rock. Black Wolves defensive coordinator Jim Veltman was also on those teams.
  • This game matches up two of the stingiest defenses in the league. New England is allowing a league-low 10.86 goals per game while Colorado is No. 2 at 11.11 goals allowed.
  • Colorado forward Adam Jones scored the game-winning goal with one second remaining to cap off a six-goal fourth quarter. That set an NLL record for most goals by a player in the fourth quarter. The 2012 NLL Rookie of the Year is on pace for 57 goals and 96 points. Those would be new career highs.
  • Colorado has a league-best 10 short-handed goals, including seven at home. The Mammoth rank No. 2 in the league in penalty killing percentage at 55.3%.
  • New England’s Sheldon Burns is the only player in the NLL with two power play goals, and he ranks second in short-handed goals this season, with two.

New England Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark
Reflecting back on the win over Georgia:
“Every win is coveted. We knew Georgia was tough. They’ve beaten good teams and they have a lot of firepower. We knew it would be tough. We thought we were running away from them at times, but they have the ability to score and score quickly. From the coaching lens, there are things you’re not happy about in terms of execution, which are things we’re going to adjust and work on. But we are in a results-based business so when you get the win, you’re certainly happy.”

Looking ahead to Colorado:
“There’s no layoffs. There’s no easy games. You look at last weekend, and four of the five games were one-goal games and become coin flips at some point. It’s a very difficult league to win in. This weekend is going to be like most of our weekends. It’s going to be a real challenge and a real opportunity. It’s a litmus test to see where we’re at, so we’re excited.”

On the return to the team of Andrew Suitor:
“He’s been full practice with us – I mean he’s been running with us for quite a while – he’s probably been full for about a month in terms of contact. He’s been deemed ready to go. He’s healthy and ready and eager to get back at it. It’s been a process.”

More on how Suitor will fit back into the team:
“He’s been part of it the whole time. He’s been at the practices and traveled with us periodically. He’s been in on chats with the team. He’s been engaged and involved with the guys. There’s a level of accountability with those two guys (Suitor and Shawn Evans). They’re team first and they create a buy-in environment which you need in pro sports. You can’t be divisive. So you’ve got these guys who pull everybody and push everybody in the right direction. It’s nice to have them both going.”

It took a while, but Jordan Hall looks like he is comfortable in the Black Wolves lineup now:
“He does. He showed all of the things that we wanted. He’s very athletic, great at both ends of the floor. Obviously he scored three goals and assists, I think he was three and six, and was pretty dynamic all over the floor. Even some of the smaller things, the last possession where we needed that loose ball off the faceoff, he was the guy who got the loose ball. That enabled us to get the timeout, and set the play that eventually led to the (winning) goal that he assisted on. He just does so many things. He’s active in shutting transition down, he’s so athletic offensively. He’s just been a real nice piece to round out our offense. You look at offenses and you try to figure out where they’re going to hurt you and he’s another weapon that teams have to worry about and it makes us, collectively, more dangerous.”

Beginning this week, New England’s next five games are against Colorado and Rochester. Is that an advantage or disadvantage?
“I don’t know. It’s fairly unusual. When I saw the schedule the first, playing three consecutive games against Rochester (March 12, 25 and 26), I don’t remember ever being part of something like that before other than a playoff series…It’s a little unusual. Advantage? I don’t know. You learn something about the opponent every time you play against them, so I guess by the end of it, we’ll have each other figured out pretty well. But that’s the game in general. It’s always about trying to gain little advantages here and there. Things you see that you think you can take advantage of and they’re trying to do the same thing. It’s a bit of a chess match, but I don’t know if it’s an advantage or disadvantage. I think the intensity might get ratcheted up because guys might start getting sick of each other and the memories won’t fade as quickly, but it probably, if anything, will fire up the (rivalries) a little bit.”

How difficult is it to prepare for a team like Colorado when you don’t see them in person that much?
“It’s a little difficult. You watch video and all that kind of stuff and you know personnel to a certain extent. You try to identify different parts of the opposition’s game that you need to be aware of and need to scheme around, and it really becomes different opponents but a similar exercise. You try to figure out where you can take advantage of some things and where they might be more dangerous. I was watching the Vancouver-Colorado game yesterday, and you’re trying to look at tendencies and things that might help you gain some sort of advantage and that’s what they’ll be doing with us. The opponents change, but you still go through the same exercise. Having said that, you still have your own identity that you protect. We still have a way that we want to play that we think is going to allow us to have success, and then we make certain small adjustments opponent to opponent.”

Colorado coach Pat Coyle:
On the biggest difference with the Black Wolves from last season, when they finished 4-14
“You can’t discount what a player like Shawn Evans can bring to a team. Not only is he going to score goals, but what I think he is really good at is making his teammates, the players around him, a lot better.  So offensively, I think, a lot of credit goes to him. And (Evan) Kirk is playing solid in net. And I don’t think it’s coincidence that their record is 5-2 and that Jimmy Veltman and Glenn Clark and Tracey are the coaches. Those are all guys I played with and I know the quality of guys that they are, and the pedigree they bring with them and how much they’ve won, and it seems like that’s translated with the New England team.”

Next Game: The Black Wolves visit Rochester on Saturday, March 12th at 7:30 p.m. For more information on the Black Wolves, visit blackwolves.com.