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New England Black Wolves at Rochester Knighthawks Game Preview

New England Black Wolves (0-0) at Rochester Knighthawks (0-1)
At Connors & Ferris, LLP Field
Saturday, January 7th, 7:30 p.m.
Live on NLLTV.com

Last Game: Rochester opened the season with a 12-5 loss at home to the Toronto Rock on December 29th; New England has not played a game.

Players to watch: New England – Shawn Evans (50 goals, 68 assists, 118 points, 116 loose balls in 2016) led the Black Wolves in all four categories last season…Kevin Crowley (33 goals, 57 assists, 90 points) had a career-high for points in 2016…Evan Kirk led the league with 620 saves on the way to 2016 NLL Goaltender of the Year honors…Pat Saunders (44 goals, 32 assists, 76 points) had career highs in all three categories last year…Jay Thorimbert led the NLL with 289 faceoff wins last year as a member of the Bandits…Kyle Buchanan set new career-highs with 29 goals and 100 loose balls…Kevin Buchanan had a career-high 62 points.

Rochester – In his 16th season, the ageless Dan Dawson (40 goals, 95 points in 2016) reached the 40-goal mark for the third time in his career last year…Former Black Wolves forward Quinn Powless had two goals in the loss to the Rock…Goalie Matt Vinc, who ranked second in the NLL behind Kirk with 592 saves last year, made 43 stops in the loss to Toronto.

Noteworthy:

  • New England was 2-2 against the Knighthawks last year.
  • Shawn Evans (10 goals, 14 assists), Pat Saunders (11 goals, nine assists) and Kevin Crowley (six goals, 17 assists) led the way in four games against Rochester last season.
  • 2014 NLL MVP Cody Jamieson, who led the Knighthawks with 99 points last season, did not play against the Rock last week. His status for Saturday is not known.
  • Evan Kirk’s 620 saves rank seventh all time in NLL history. Buffalo goalie Anthony Cosmo set the record for saves with 752 in 2014, and also collected the No. 2 total (681) in 2015.
  • Rochester’s Quinn Powless was originally drafted by the Black Wolves in 2014.

New England Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark
Do the players get particularly excited about a season-opener?
“Absolutely. They really do. Our challenge, a little bit, is to sort of temper that and make sure they’re not over-anxious or over-excited. You have to run at a pretty even temperature to be most effective.”

What do you anticipate from Rochester?
“They’ve got a real split. They have some young guys who are sort of finding their way in the league right now so those guys are going to be a game better, a game more comfortable. And they’ve still got a real core from those championship teams. Guys who know how to win. We’re expecting a team that’s going to have energy. They’ve got a lot of useful energy but they have a solid leadership group there that has a lot of experience. They’ve won a lot and had a lot of success so we know they’re going to be well-coached, they’re going to be systematic.”

Where do you think this Black Wolves team is better than last year?
“I think our overall depth is going to allow us (to be better).  I think we thickened our group on both sides of the ball, offensive, defensively, and goal-tending to be honest. I think we’ve improved the depth of our team across the board and when you play in a league where everything is so tight and the margins of victory are so small, if you can deliver and have less breakdowns as you go through a game, a quarter, a season, you have more chance for success. Every team in the league has star players and then it’s what happens through the depth and the thickness of your lineup. And we feel we’ve made ourselves better in terms of depth so we’ll be able to roll out a consistent effort quarter in, game in, season long. So I think when you look at that over the course of the season, it puts you in a better position to have success.”

How is the dynamic been between the new guys and returning veterans?
“I like our overall pace. We’re a little faster, the ball movement is a little better, a little more consistent. It’s a good dynamic. We have a real inclusive group of players. We actually had some individual meetings last night, and we were talking to one of the young guys, Joel Coyle, and one of the comments he made was he was really surprised at how tight and good a group of guys it was. He said guys were telling me when you go to pro, it’s a lot different than when you’re playing junior and college. Guys are more into their own game. I’ve been amazed at how inclusive an environment it is so that’s nice. You don’t have to have a friend’s group, but when you’ve got a talented group of guys who are very inclusive, it just creates a better environment and it shows. Guys are energized and excited to be around each other.”

Next Game: New England will be at Colorado on January 14th.