Preview: Buffalo at New England

New England Black Wolves (6-5) vs. Buffalo Bandits (6-7)
At Mohegan Sun Arena
Friday, March 23rd, 7:30 p.m. ET
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Last Game: The New England Black Wolves fell 14-9 at home to the Toronto Rock on Friday, March 16th. The Buffalo Bandits lost 14-10 to the Georgia Swarm on Sunday, March 18th.

Players to Watch: New England – Through 11 games, Kevin Crowley leads New England in goals (30) and is tied for the team lead in points (44). Stephan Leblanc leads the Black Wolves in assists (27), is tied for the team lead in points (44) and second in goals (17). Reilly O’Connor ranks second on the team in both assists (22) and points (28). 

Buffalo – In 13 games, Dhane Smith leads Buffalo in goals (30), assists (47) and points (77). Mitch Jones ranks second on the Bandits in goals (22), assists (37) and points (59). Josh Byrne is third on the team in goals (19), tied for third in points (47) and fourth in assists (28). 

• At 6-5, New England is currently in first place in the East Division.
• The Black Wolves fell 18-13 at home to the Bandits in their first meeting of the season back on February 9th.
• New England is third in power play conversion percentage at home (50.0). They also lead the NLL in overall penalty kill percentage (57.4).
• The Black Wolves are 6-0 this season in games decided by four goals or less.
• Anthony Joaquim scored his first career goal against the Rock.
• With three goals against Toronto, Kevin Crowley recorded his seventh hat trick and ninth multi-goal game of the season. He also extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one goal to 30. He is currently tied for third in the league in goals with 30. 
• Jay Thorimbert is tied for second in the NLL in faceoff wins (167) and ninth in loose balls (93). 
• Callum Crawford is just four goals shy of 300 career goals.
• Buffalo is currently on a four-game losing streak.
• The Bandits have given up the most power play goals in the league to their opponents (35). They have the lowest penalty kill percentage in the league when on the road (40.0). 
• Dhane Smith is tied for second in the NLL in points (77), third in assists (47) and tied for third in goals (30).
• Josh Byrne leads all NLL rookies in scoring with 47 points on 19 goals and 28 assists.
• Steve Priolo is tied for fifth in the league in loose balls with 105.

New England Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark
Opening Statement
“Last weekend was a disappointing result for us. I think if you look at it over the entirety of the season, Toronto is a good team and we got a split with them over those last two games. The disappointing part was that I didn’t think we played our best. We made some uncharacteristic mistakes, but sometimes that’s the game and sometimes you have to give credit to the opponent. Moving into this weekend with Buffalo and Georgia – in the East, we always want to compete well and do well, and hopefully get results against other teams in the East – so these are two very big, important games, not only in standings but in tiebreaker implications, so it’s a very big weekend for us.”

On the difficulties of closing out close games
“Yeah, we’ve had concerns about a lot of areas of our game. We are still struggling for that level of consistency defensively and with our goaltending. At times it’s been very good, and then at other times it has broken down. That’s the challenge. I think that’s the challenge for a lot of teams, is that level of consistency, especially in the East, where everybody seems to be taking turns going on runs and then going on skids. That is the challenge, it is a concern and we continue to look at, access, discuss and scheme for it, but at some point too, the players have to take ownership of their role in that and their performances need to improve. We do have a young group on the back end. I think six of our 10 defenders have less than two years of NLL experience, so you have to live with a few mistakes in exchange for the benefits of energy and enthusiasm from younger players. It’s been a growth throughout the year with constant dialogue and tweaking, but we’re always moving towards making sure that is more consistent.”

With Buffalo at 6-7 and on a losing streak, do you expect them to be a little desperate for a win this weekend?
“We are all hungry for a win to be honest. If you look at the East, we’re in first place, but every team in the division has six wins. Everybody is hungry, everybody is desperate. I don’t think they are any more desperate than we are. I’m not worried about that desperation level because I believe we have it as well. We know what is at stake and we know how quickly on a weekend like this, you can end up going from first place to last. We’re a desperate team as well and we know what’s at stake, so I’m not worried about them being any hungrier than we are.”

Next Game: The New England Black Wolves faceoff against the Georgia Swarm at Infinite Energy Arena on Saturday, March 24th at 7:05 p.m. ET.