New England Black Wolves (8-10) at Toronto Rock (9-9)
At Air Canada Centre
Saturday, May 6th, 7:00 p.m.
Live on NLLTV.com
Last Game: New England fell 17-16 at home in overtime last weekend to the Vancouver Stealth on April 29th. Toronto won 19-15 over the Buffalo Bandits on April 29th.
Players to Watch: New England – Shawn Evans (38 goals, 65 assists) led the Black Wolves this season in both assists and points (103). He had one goal and seven assists last week against Vancouver. Kevin Crowley (45 goals, 40 assists) led the team in goals, finished third in assists and second in points (85). He had five goals and two assists against the Stealth. Kevin Buchanan (25 goals, 49 assists) ranked second on the team in assists and third in points (74). He also added four goals and two assists in the game.
Toronto – Brett Hickey (45 goals, 32 assists) led Toronto this season in goals and is second on the team in points (77). He had five goals and five assists in last week’s win over Buffalo. Tom Schreiber (33 goals, 61 assists) led the Rock in assists and points (94) and ranked second on the team in goals. He added three goals and three assists against the Bandits. Stephan Leblanc (20 goals, 53 assists) was third on the team in both goals and points (73), and second in assists. He dished out eight assists in the game.
– The New England Black Wolves were 2-0 against Toronto this season. Both games were decided by one goal.
– Kevin Buchanan (five goals, seven assists), Kevin Crowley (four goals, seven assists) and Kyle Buchanan (two goals, seven assists) led the charge for the Black Wolves in the two games played against the Rock this season.
– Stephan Leblanc (four goals, seven assists), Tom Schreiber (five goals, six assists) and Brett Hickey (three goals, four assists) were the top performers for Toronto in the two games played against New England this season.
– For the second year in a row, Evan Kirk (676 saves) led the NLL with a franchise-record in saves. It’s the third highest in NLL history.
– Kevin Crowley scored in every game for the Black Wolves, and finished tied for 3rd in the NLL this season with a career-best 45 goals.
– Jay Thorimbert led the NLL in faceoff wins (302) for the third straight year. He also led the league in loose balls (192) for the second time in his career.
– Shawn Evans became the eighth player in NLL history to reach 1,000 career points. He finished tied for ninth in the league in goals (38), tied for third in assists (65) and fifth in points (103). He also posted his 5th straight 100-point season.
– Kevin Buchanan set single-season career-highs in goals (25), assists (49) and points (74) this season.
– Kyle Buchanan also posted new single-season career-highs for goals (31) as well as points (69). He scored a career-high five goals against Calgary (3/25). He also set a new single-season career-high for loose balls (131). That makes four straight years that he has set new single-season career-highs in loose balls.
– Sheldon Burns led the league in defensive goals (nine) and ranked second in points (19). He collected a career-high 15 loose balls against Georgia (4/7), setting a new franchise record.
– Brett Hickey finished the season tied for third in the NLL in goals (45). He also tied for second in power-play goals scored on the season (16).
– Tom Schreiber finished ranked sixth in the league in assists (61) and tied for seventh in points (94). He led all NLL rookies in goals (33), assists and points.
– Brodie Merrill finished third in the NLL in loose balls (171).
– Reid Reinholdt finished third in rookie goals (20) and tied for fifth in rookie points (36).
– Toronto closed the season with the second lowest goals against average (11.11) in the NLL.
New England Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark
“We’re excited. We’re excited to get started. The slate gets wiped clean. I think the regular season was a bit up-and-down for us. It wasn’t exactly what we hoped for the regular season, but we did qualify for the playoffs, which is one of the accomplishments we wanted to get, and now everybody’s at 0-0. This is the time of the year you wait for, you play for, and from a coach’s perspective, the motivation is easy – it’s a one-and-done. Guys know what’s at stake so it’s a pretty exciting time.”
Where’s the team at mentally, do you feel like you’re ready for this?
“Yeah, I think we do. I think the guys are aware that there were some sub-par performances that got us in the position we’re in, and they are things that are in their control, so I think they’re in a pretty good head space. They obviously understand the magnitude of the game, so their psyche, their excitement level, all that kind of stuff is not going to be an issue, and they know they need to perform. They know how difficult it’s going to be and that’s a good thing, because a little bit of discomfort is what you need as an athlete. They’re suitably, appropriately nervous because it is a big game that’s based on them performing well. The individual, smaller facets of the game, at this time of the year, work out to be bigger parts to the puzzle.”
What are some keys for you guys to be successful against Toronto this weekend?
“Couple different areas. I think offensively, they’ve got a similar make-up to Vancouver. They’ve got some really good shooters from the outside, they’re pretty active offensively, and they try and create some shooting lanes and get your defense running around a little bit. You’ve got to be sound defensively with your communication, positioning, switches, and all that type of stuff. Defensively, in transition, they’re very athletic. They want to play a high-tempo game and they want to push pace, so you need to be able to match it. There’s no mystery systematically to what they do, they just play with a lot of energy and they play with a lot of pace. If you try and take shortcuts, or if you aren’t aware in the transition game, that’s when they’ll burn you. I would say the speed, pace, and energy they play at are probably the things you need to be most aware of.”
You didn’t really earn your way to the playoffs losing to Vancouver last weekend. Is there a hunger there to prove that you’ve earned something as a team this season?
“I don’t think the two are related. You’re not happy with losing out and getting in, but the regular season is when you earn it. In the big picture, we did earn it and I think, right now, the playoffs and the one-and-done game is enough motivation to keep these guys focused. To be honest, other than correcting mistakes, I don’t think these guys are thinking about the regular season at all. They’re laser-focused on Toronto and a playoff game, and a lot gets forgotten and forgiven when you win in the playoffs. That’s what you want. I don’t think there’s going to be a hangover or carryover of any negatives from the regular season. We got into the playoffs and now it’s about what you make with that opportunity.”