Black Wolves Handle Rush in Home Opener 12/28/2018

Justin Ivey, Correspondent New England Black Wolves
Lacrosse is Awesome©

Photo Credit Cover Photo:  Justin Ivey

On Friday, December 28, 2018 The New England Black Wolves (1-1) hosted the defending champion Saskatchewan Rush (0-1) in front of 6,445 fans at Mohegan Sun Arena.  The Rush were opening their season after winning their third Champion’s Cup in four years.  The team returned MVP Mark Matthews, Ben McIntosh and signed Robert Church to a multi-year extension.  Last year, the high-powered offense beat New England in Saskatchewan 24-11.  You can say this game was a bit of redemption.  Riding the hot sticks of Callum Crawford and Reilly O’Connor, the Black Wolves held on for a tight victory – giving starting goaltender Alex Buque his first win in a Black Wolves uniform.  Final Score:  New England 12—Saskatchewan 11.

The Black Wolves started off the game fast, scoring the first three goals.  Reilly O’Connor (4G, 2A) scored first, slipping below his defender and catching a beautiful feed on the crease from JP Kealey (3A).  Rookie Dereck Downs (1G, 1A) scored his first NLL goal almost five minutes later, diving into the crease for the finish.  To cap off the run, Callum Crawford (3G, 3A) notched his first of the game after he split two defenders from behind the net to put New England up 3-0 with 7:52 remaining in the first.  30 seconds later, Mark Matthews (2G, 6A) got the Rush on the board with a power play goal.  Both defenses stood tall for the remainder of the quarter.  In fact, the last goal of the quarter was created by a spectacular defensive play.  In the waning seconds, the Rush pulled their goalie for the extra attacker.  Ryan Keenan (7A) caught a pass just past the half way marker and as he turned, was met by a ready John LaFontaine (1G).  LaFontaine laid the big hit and scooped up the loose ball.  On the run, he sent the shot towards the empty net and increased the lead to three going into the break. At the end of the first quarter, New England led Saskatchewan 4-1.

Photo Credit: Justin Ivey

The Rush turned the tide early in the second quarter, going on a three-goal run of their own.  Matthews scored his second of the game only 51 seconds in.  Two minutes later, Robert Church (3G, 1A) scored on the power play and just 25 seconds later Jeff Shattler (2G, 1A) tied the game 4-4.  The Black Wolves came storming back.  O’Connor scored a minute and a half later, followed by another Crawford goal.  A costly illegal cross check on Joel Coyle (2A) gave the Rush a powerplay opportunity.  Before they were able to capitalize though, O’Connor got his hat trick goal shorthanded.  Another penalty, this one on O’Connor left the Black Wolves two men down.  Eventually, Shattler would find the back of the net.  Still with the man advantage, the Rush again gave up a shorthanded goal.  This one to Stephan Leblanc (2G, 1A).  With 4:11 left in the half, the Black Wolves had an 8-5 lead.  David Brock (1G) would extend that lead to four just over two minutes later with an unassisted transition goal.  For the last three minutes of the half the Rush controlled the tempo and the ball and were able to score twice before the buzzer.  Ben McIntosh (3G, 3A) scored with 1:45 remaining and 30 seconds later Matthew Dinsdale (1G) found the net on the assist from Curtis Knight (2A).  At the half, New England led Saskatchewan 9-7.

Again, the Rush came out of the locker room hot.  With a man advantage after a late New England penalty at the end of the first half, McIntosh found the net just 22 seconds in.  Neither team would be able to get anything going on offense for over 11 minutes to follow.  The defenses and goaltenders kept the game locked at 9-8 until 4:30 remained in the third.  Church broke the drought and tied the game.  25 seconds later, with an extra attacker on the floor after a delayed penalty McIntosh notched his second of the quarter, giving Saskatchewan their first lead in the game.  The five-goal run spanning halftime was finally answered by Crawford with 48 seconds left.  His goal tied the game at 10-10 going into the final quarter.

Photo Credit: Justin Ivey

New England looked like they were going to take the lead 1:04 into the fourth when they were awarded a penalty shot.  Crawford took it and Rush goalie Evan Kirk made a beautiful save to keep the score knotted up.  The celebration was short lived though.  30 seconds later Leblanc scored his second of the game.  The score stayed 11-10 for over eight minutes with both defenses making stop after stop.  The Rush were assessed a penalty and on the power play O’Connor notched his fourth goal of the game, and seventh on the year equaling his season total from last year.  With 1:19 left, the Rush scored with an extra attacker to bring us to our final.  Saskatchewan-11, New England-12.

Up Next:

The Saskatchewan Rush (0-1) host the San Diego Seals (1-1) on Saturday, January 5 at 8:30 PM EST.

The New England Black Wolves (1-1) travel to play the Calgary Roughnecks (2-1) on Saturday, January 12 at 9:00 PM EST.

Justin Ivey, Correspondent New England Black Wolves
Lacrosse is Awesome©

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