New England Black Wolves at Vancouver Stealth Game Preview

New England Black Wolves at Vancouver Stealth
At Langley Events Centre

Saturday, January 9th, 10 p.m. (EST)
Watch live on NESNplus or WatchESPN

Season Opener: The New England Black Wolves begin their second season in Connecticut, their first under new head coach Glenn Clark, who was hired last June to replace Blane Harrison after a 4-14 campaign in 2015. Clark won five NLL championships as a player with Toronto.

Clark’s team will make its 2016 debut against the Stealth. In the only meeting between the teams last year, Vancouver pulled out an 11-9 win on April 12, 2015 at Mohegan Sun Arena, rallying from a 2-0 deficit by scoring eight of the next 10 goals in the contest. It was a rare win for the Stealth, who finished 5-13.

Players to watch: New England – Acquired from Calgary in a major offseason trade, 2015 NLL MVP Shawn Evans led the NLL with a career-high 130 points. He had career highs of 83 assists and 47 goals and is expected to make a significant impact on the New England attack…Pat Saunders led the Black Wolves in 2015, with career-highs of 68 points, 38 goals and 30 assists…Kyle Buchanan (25 goals, 37 assists, 62 points) led the team in assists… Kevin Buchanan (21 goals, 35 assists, 56 points) was another dependable contributor on offense. Vancouver – Entering his eighth season, Rhys Duch had career highs of 62 assists and 103 points last season. One of six players to reach the 100-point mark last year, he ranked fifth overall in NLL scoring…Corey Small was second on the team with 71 points, including 32 goals and 43 assists.
 

New England Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark

On the style of play fans can expect:
“We’re athletic in terms of our personnel so we want to be an up-tempo, fast-paced type of team. But one of the things we’re preaching to them and talking about is being systematic and being disciplined because this game – if you’ve followed it for a long time – there are a lot of swings during the course of a game and during the course of a season, and often times, it’s one-goal games. It’s very close. The game is won on a series of little plays as opposed to big plays and if you can control a lot of those aspects, you put yourself in a better situation to be successful. So that is sort of our focus, being very systematic and controlled in our play.”

How is team chemistry?
“From a personality standpoint, it’s very good. Guys are very in-sync. There’s a real good buy-in factor and guys are real hungry to learn. They’ve been very receptive to all the coaches and been very engaged with all the teaching we’re doing. So that’s one part of chemistry. It’s a very good fit and a very good group, which is sometimes half the battle. The other chemistry is an on-going process. We’ve been working on it in our practices, getting guys comfortable, putting them in game scenario-type reps. But some of that chemistry gets built on the real stage. It does take some time to develop that.  We’re trying to expedite that by the positions we’re putting them in in practice, but the true chemistry comes with familiarity and putting in a lot of those hard minutes in real scenarios.”

On the impact of Shawn Evans:
“You don’t want it to be on one guy.  We didn’t bring him in to be a savior. We brought him in to be a very good player on our team and help other guys get better. But he is certainly going to be the centerpiece of the offense. I’ve known Shawn for a long time. When I was still playing, he was in the league, so I played against him and I have coached him a couple of times with the national team. He’s one of those rare offensive superstars who really doesn’t have an ego in terms of how he plays the game. He brings it shift in and shift out. He can play a nasty game. He goes after loose balls and re-possessions. He’s a treat to watch. I’m really happy we’ve got Shawn in the fold.”

On the problems Vancouver creates:
“They’ve got quite a good offense in terms of guys who present different challenges. They’ve got some good outside shots but they can also get inside. It’s going to be a real challenge for us defensively. It’s stuff we’ve been talking about, we worked on in terms of scheming and some things we want to do. Right now, I think we match up well. You’re making constant adjustments as you go, but I’m excited and curious. I want to see what we have. I want to see if the decisions we made on personnel are going to pan out and are going to be ones we like moving forward. It’s a dynamic environment. You’re constantly assessing and re-assessing. Allentown (the preseason game against Buffalo on December 19th) was the kind of the first one and this will be the next one.”

Next Game: The Black Wolves host Calgary on January 15th at 7 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena. This will be the first time Evans faces his former team.

For more information on the Black Wolves, visit blackwolves.com.