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Black Wolves win first game in Connecticut

New England's Quinn Powless battles Buffalo's Dhane Smith in the Black Wolves' NLL opener at the Mohegan Sun Arena. (Photo courtesy NLL)

New England’s Quinn Powless battles Buffalo’s Dhane Smith in the Black Wolves’ NLL opener at the Mohegan Sun Arena. (Photo courtesy NLL)

UNCASVILLE, Conn., Jan. 2 — Connecticut’s newest professional sports franchise – the New England Black Wolves of the National Lacrosse League – made their debut Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville. 

Formerly known as the Philadelphia Wings, the Black Wolves indoor lacrosse squad scored on four power play opportunities to win their first-ever game in Connecticut with a 12-8 decision over the Buffalo Bandits before 5,768 fans. 

Led by four goals by Kevin Buchanan, New England came back from an early 3-1 deficit to earn the victory. Pat Saunders had three goals of his own while Kevin Crowley added two goals and three assist for the Black Wolves (1-0). Ryan Hotaling won nine of 19 face-offs. New England goalie Evan Kirk earned the win in goal stopping 50 of the 58 shots he faced. 

Buffalo (0-1) was led by Mark Steenhuis and Dhane Smith who each had two goals and one assist. Brandon Goodwin won 13 of the 23 faceoffs he took. Anthony Cosmo took the loss in the first game of the season allowing 12 goals on 55 shots. 

New England wasted little time scoring their first goal in team history as Crowley, a former No. 1 draft pick, scored an unassisted goal 2:40 into the game. Buffalo would rattle off four of the next five goals in the first quarter to take a 4-2 lead going into the second quarter.  

The Black Wolves came storming out in the second quarter with a goal by Brett Manney and two goals by Buchanan to take a 5-4 lead. After the Bandits tied the game at five, Crowley would score once again for New England giving them a 6-5 lead to end the first half. New England outscored Buffalo 6-3 in the second half to secure the victory. 

The Black Wolves are anchored by a core of returning veterans, and bolstered by a group of newcomers that includes five rookies, four veterans acquired through trade and three free agent signings. 

“A lot of work has gone into the acquisition and selection of players which make up this team, by a lot of people within our organization,” Black Wolves coach Blane Harrison said. “We believe at this point in time we have a roster that can compete for the Champions Cup.” 

Among the returning veterans, Crowley will look to build on last year’s career-high 75 points. The 6-foot-4 forward has 103 goals and 218 points in 50 NLL games. Other key returning veterans will include Mike Manley – the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year in the outdoor Major Lacrosse League – and defender Joel White, who had a career-high 17 forced turnovers in 2014. 

Two veterans acquired by trade, Craig England and Mike McNamara, solidify the defense. Tye Belanger, provide depth at the goalie spot while Jamie Lincoln plays forward and transition. 

Through free agency, the Black Wolves also acquired forward Brett Bucktooth, who had 92 goals and 223 points in 88 games with Buffalo and Vancouver. He helped the Bandits win a championship in 2008. 

Earning spots on the team out of free agent training camp were Norwalk native Brent Adams, a former star forward at Fairfield University, and Bill O’Brien, who played varsity football at Sacred Heart.  

The team plays games on weekends and has a 18-game schedule. New England returns to action next Saturday, January 10 at 7 p.m. when they host the Rochester Knighthawks.

New England 12, Buffalo 8
At Uncasville
Buffalo (0-1)              4  1  2  1  — 8
New England (1-0)    2  4  3  3  — 12

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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