New England Black Wolves at Colorado Mammoth Game Preview

New England Black Wolves (0-1) at Colorado Mammoth (1-1)
At The Pepsi Center
Saturday, January 14th, 9:00 p.m. ET
Live on CW20

Last Game: New England opened the season with a 15-8 loss at Rochester on January 7th; Colorado lost 15-9 at home to the Vancouver Stealth on January 7th.

Players to Watch: New England – Pat Saunders (two goals, one assist) was the only New England player with multiple goals in last week’s loss. Kevin Crowley had one goal and three assists; Shawn Evans had a goal and two assists. Nine of the 15 goals surrendered by Evan Kirk (45 saves) were on Rochester power plays.

Colorado – Eli McLaughlin led the Mammoth with a career-high four goals in the loss to Vancouver. Callum Crawford (one goal, five assists), Zach Greer (three assists) and Jeremy Noble (one goal, two assists) also contributed offensively.

Noteworthy:

  • New England is 0-3 against the Mammoth since relocating from Philadelphia prior to the 2015 season. Two games were decided by two goals and one game was decided by one goal.
  • New England was 4-5 on the road during the 2016 season.
  • Shawn Evans (six goals, four assists), Kevin Buchanan (four goals, four assists) and Kevin Crowley (one goal, eight assists) led the Black Wolves in the two games played against Colorado in 2016.
  • Callum Crawford ranked third in points in the NLL last season with 115. He needs 41 assists to reach 500 for his career.
  • Jeremy Noble scored his 100th career point last week against Vancouver.
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New England Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark

Opening Statement:
“Obviously, (we) weren’t happy with the start. It wasn’t how we envisioned that going, but the first games are usually tough. Guys are getting used to playing at that speed, at that pace of play, so hopefully that got it out of our system and we’ll be a little sharper for this weekend.”

How did it kind of get away from the Black Wolves? It started out pretty well, and then all of a sudden they had that run: “I think you do have these swings and runs as we call them in lacrosse that seem to flow back and forth. I thought a couple of things. We were a little stationary on offense. We weren’t generating a lot of dangerous chances. And when you’re stationary, you’re not getting loose balls. You’re not reacting to defense. We let them get some transition, so we weren’t as sharp as we wanted to be. I think we started to claw back a little bit, and then the last quarter of the game, we were just short-handed the whole quarter. We couldn’t get any momentum.”

Since that game, what have you been working on?
“We actually focused a lot more on our offensive set. I didn’t think our defense, five-on-five, was that bad. Of the 15 goals, nine of them were power play goals, which is an unusually high amount, and a lot of them were five-on-three goals. I think there might have been seven in the fourth quarter on the power play, so it’s really hard to get a gauge on how well your defense was playing because those are special situations. We always work on our man-down unit to get the right mix of personnel and concept, but the focus for us, to be honest, is making sure our offense is a little sharper, a little more dynamic, a little more active, to kind of put the other guys on the run a little bit, not be as easy to play against.”

What does Colorado present in terms of going out there to play against them? What does going there present as a challenge?
“Their team is a challenge. They’re pretty deep. They’ve got one of the best goaltenders in the league. They’ve got a really dynamic offense with a lot of guys who can hurt you, and they have a big, athletic D. So they’re a pretty complete package in terms of the team. Their defense is pretty aggressive. They get on you quick, and that was one of the things in my previous responses; if you’re not going to move the ball and move your feet and play a fast, dynamic game, you’re going to get in trouble because they’re going to be all over you. You’re going to get swarmed. You’re going to have turnovers. We have to be hitting on all cylinders. Our defense has to be very good in terms of communicating, closing gaps on guys, all the things we want to do from a defensive standpoint. But again, our offense was pretty stale in Rochester, so we want their pace of play to pick up and their ball movement and all that. They’re pretty complete. They can hurt you from different areas. They’ve got a good transition game, and they feed off the crowd. It’s always a good atmosphere there, so it presents a lot of different challenges across the board.”

How big of a challenge is it to play in an environment like that so early in the season when your guys are still trying to find their legs?
“You know, to me, it’s not a bad thing because you’ve got to jump right into the fire. We’ve had our game, so there really are no excuses. The message has been sent. We weren’t good enough last week and you really have no reason not to be ready to play (at Colorado). We got kicked in the mouth. We weren’t good enough. So whether it was a mindset thing, or whether it was a sharpness issue of not playing at that speed and pace because it’s been a long time since our last exhibition game, whatever that mental checklist looks like for each individual player, they’ve got to check it off and be ready to go because there are no excuses.”

You talk about how, in this league, you have to keep pace. You can’t afford to go 0-2 and have somebody 2-0. I would assume that it’s an important win for you to pick up?
“Yeah it is, absolutely. They all are. It’s an 18-game schedule and every game is so competitive. I’ve said this to you guys a lot. I covet every win because they’re so hard to come by. It’s such a difficult league to win in with the balance and the strength of all of the teams. You start digging a hole for yourself early, it becomes that much more difficult to climb out and become a playoff team. There’s no panic in our group, but you certainly want to be keeping pace.”

Next Game: New England will be at Georgia on January 20th.