News

Kirk Keeps Gaze On Future Goals

There was a point during the closing stages of regulation in the playoff game last May 7th at Mohegan Sun Arena against the Georgia Swarm when New England Black Wolves goalie Evan Kirk was under siege.

Time and again, Georgia literally swarmed the net, looking for openings. But Kirk, in the midst of a career year, continually responded with timely stops to keep the Black Wolves alive. A save with 19 seconds left in regulation off a shot by Lyle Thompson allowed New England to get to overtime, where Shawn Evans scored to clinch a 14-13 victory.

It was the first playoff win for the franchise since 2001, and a highlight performance by Kirk, who earned NLL Goaltender of the Year in 2016 after making a franchise record 620 saves – the seventh highest total in NLL history – while also winning a career-best nine games.

But if you think Kirk has spent a lot of time reviewing his performance in that win over the Swarm, guess again.

“No,” Kirk said when asked if he had watched the game yet. “Maybe I should sometime. I don’t look at old film or stuff like that. I try not to look into it too much because then you’re over-thinking it.”

As he begins his sixth season in the National Lacrosse League, Kirk has been around long enough to know the value of keeping an even keel. That’s why he takes nothing for granted as the Black Wolves begin preparing for 2017.

“I don’t think any year you can compare and say we’re better or worse or we’ve been together for two years so that gives us an advantage,” Kirk explained when asked if the experience of a ten-win season and a playoff victory gives the team an edge heading into the new year. “ Teams change so much year to year. Throughout that one year it may change as well. Obviously, I feel a lot more comfortable with the people there and I think people playing together in the offensive group feel more comfortable …Every year is a new year and you just have to approach it as a new year and a new time to kind of take root with a new team because we are going to have some change.”

Last season, Kirk was pressed early in training camp by former backup goalie Tye Belanger. The competition helped him focus and prepare for what turned out to be his best year.

“It’s funny,” Kirk said. “I analyze everything because I’m a goalie. I look into everything. I think at the start of the year, I didn’t start off too hot. Obviously, Tye last year here put my back up against the wall. He was playing very competitively. Going into my fifth season, (thinking about) where I was going  to fit in the long run of my career and just knowing that now was kind of my time , (I) really focused in on creating a full year compared to a few good games. My main goal was just to be consistent.”

Kirk ended up ranked second in the NLL in save percentage at .789 – compared to .728 in 2015 – and his 620 saves were tops in the league, 28 better than three-time NLL Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc. Kirk also slashed his goals-against average from 13.55 in 2015 to 11.79.

The performance against Georgia in the first round of the playoffs capped his year.

“It meant a lot.” Kirk said. “That was an insane game.  I remember the last 10 minutes was shot after shot after shot coming in. There were obviously some big defensive plays and some big saves that I felt comfortable with that got us to that second series.”

That second series was end of the road for the Black Wolves, who were swept 2-0 in the East Division Finals by the Buffalo Bandits. The goal this season is to take the next step. And while Kirk takes nothing for granted, he is looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s a completely different season,” he said. “I’m excited.”

There was a point during the closing stages of regulation in the playoff game last May 7th at Mohegan Sun Arena against the Georgia Swarm when New England Black Wolves goalie Evan Kirk was under siege.

Time and again, Georgia literally swarmed the net, looking for openings. But Kirk, in the midst of a career year, continually responded with timely stops to keep the Black Wolves alive. A save with 19 seconds left in regulation off a shot by Lyle Thompson allowed New England to get to overtime, where Shawn Evans scored to clinch a 14-13 victory.

It was the first playoff win for the franchise since 2001, and a highlight performance by Kirk, who earned NLL Goaltender of the Year in 2016 after making a franchise record 620 saves – the seventh highest total in NLL history – while also winning a career-best nine games.

But if you think Kirk has spent a lot of time reviewing his performance in that win over the Swarm, guess again.

“No,” Kirk said when asked if he had watched the game yet. “Maybe I should sometime. I don’t look at old film or stuff like that. I try not to look into it too much because then you’re over-thinking it.”

As he begins his sixth season in the National Lacrosse League, Kirk has been around long enough to know the value of keeping an even keel. That’s why he takes nothing for granted as the Black Wolves begin preparing for 2017.

“I don’t think any year you can compare and say we’re better or worse or we’ve been together for two years so that gives us an advantage,” Kirk explained when asked if the experience of a ten-win season and a playoff victory gives the team an edge heading into the new year. “ Teams change so much year to year. Throughout that one year it may change as well. Obviously, I feel a lot more comfortable with the people there and I think people playing together in the offensive group feel more comfortable …Every year is a new year and you just have to approach it as a new year and a new time to kind of take root with a new team because we are going to have some change.”

Last season, Kirk was pressed early in training camp by former backup goalie Tye Belanger. The competition helped him focus and prepare for what turned out to be his best year.

“It’s funny,” Kirk said. “I analyze everything because I’m a goalie. I look into everything. I think at the start of the year, I didn’t start off too hot. Obviously, Tye last year here put my back up against the wall. He was playing very competitively. Going into my fifth season, (thinking about) where I was going  to fit in the long run of my career and just knowing that now was kind of my time , (I) really focused in on creating a full year compared to a few good games. My main goal was just to be consistent.”

Kirk ended up ranked second in the NLL in save percentage at .789 – compared to .728 in 2015 – and his 620 saves were tops in the league, 28 better than three-time NLL Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc. Kirk also slashed his goals-against average from 13.55 in 2015 to 11.79.

The performance against Georgia in the first round of the playoffs capped his year.

“It meant a lot.” Kirk said . “That was an insane game.  I remember the last 10 minutes was shot after shot after shot coming in. There were obviously some big defensive plays and some big saves that I felt comfortable with that got us to that second series.”

That second series was end of the road for the Black Wolves, who were swept 2-0 in the East Division Finals by the Buffalo Bandits. The goal this season is to take the next step. And while Kirk takes nothing for granted, he is looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s a completely different season,” he said. “I’m excited.”