Uncasville – The first-place New England Black Wolves held off the Rochester Knighthawks 11-9 in a physical, defensive battle on Sunday before 5,373 on Native American Heritage Day at Mohegan Sun Arena.
It was the third straight win for New England (4-1), which has held each opponent to fewer than 10 goals during the streak. It was also the second win in eight days over the Knighthawks (2-4). The Black Wolves prevailed 9-8 at Rochester last Saturday.
Kevin Crowley and Shawn Evans each had three goals for the Black Wolves while Reilly O’Connor and Stephan Leblanc each scored twice. Goalie Aaron Bold backed up an active and aggressive New England defense with some clutch saves, including a pair of point-blank stops in the closing minutes.
“The identity we said we wanted to establish in the offseason was being very sound and predictable on defense,” Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark said. “I think we have a pretty good sample size now that we are becoming that team.”
The Black Wolves never trailed in the game, but did go more than 30 minutes without a goal, including the entire second quarter. The New England defense kept Rochester bottled up for much of that same span, however.
O’Connor (two goals, three assists) broke the drought with 2:36 left in the third quarter when he converted a rebound off a missed shot by Evans, beating Rochester goalie Matt Vinc to make it 7-6. Then, 26 seconds later, he scored again from the edge of the crease to make it 8-6.
The Knighthawks rallied to tie the game, and appeared to take their first lead early in the fourth quarter. But an official review determined Cory Vitarelli’s foot was in the crease and it was overturned.
Shortly after that, Crowley and Evans (three goals, three assists) took over. Crowley scored with 9:06 remaining to make it 9-8, and Evans collected his third of the game with 2:36 left to make it 10-8. Then, with 1:29 remaining, Crowley beat Vinc low to the left corner to make it 11-8.
The Black Wolves bolted out to a 4-1 lead just 8:13 into the game on two goals from Evans and single goals from Leblanc and David Brock. Leblanc and Kevin Crowley would add goals later in the quarter, but Rochester rallied to within 6-5 after the first quarter, and scored the only goal of the second quarter to tie the game, 6-6, at halftime.
Leblanc and Kevin Buchanan each had two assists for New England. Joe Resetartis had two goals and an assist while Austin Shanks had two goals.
The Black Wolves are now tied with Saskatchewan for the best record in the NLL. They are at Toronto Friday night to face the Rock at 7 p.m.