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Black Wolves drop NLL home opener to Calgary, 9-8

Saunders runs out during introductions in Friday night's NLL game at the Mohegan Sun Arena. (Photo courtesy New England Black Wolves via Twitter)

New England’s Pat Saunders runs out during introductions in Friday night’s NLL game at the Mohegan Sun Arena. (Photo courtesy New England Black Wolves via Twitter)

UNCASVILLE, Conn., Jan. 15  – One week after pouring in 17 goals in a season-opening win at Vancouver, the New England Black Wolves found the going a lot tougher against the desperate Calgary Roughnecks at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday night.

The end result was a disappointing 9-8 loss in National Lacrosse League action.

“I think we had some chances down the end in the fourth quarter but we couldn’t connect,” Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark said after watching his team rally for four straight goals to pull within a goal in the last second of play. “I think at times, we were a little stale in terms of ball movement. It’s a re-focus in terms of getting back to where we want to be offensively.”

After Pat Saunders (two goals, one assist) gave the Black Wolves a 4-3 lead 3:35 into the second quarter, New England (1-1) was held scoreless for the rest of the first half and deep into the second half – a span of 22 minutes, 42 seconds – while the Roughnecks reeled off six unanswered goals.

By the time Curtis Dickson scored his second power play goal of the night with 4:05 left in the third quarter, the Roughnecks (1-2) had a commanding 9-4 lead.

“We’ve got to be better on the offensive end,” said Shawn Evans, held to just one goal by Calgary, where he earned NLL MVP honors last season before he was traded to New England in the offseason. “It was one of those games where it was flowing early, and then the ball got stale. I think they executed their game plan well, but we never gave up.”

With the Black Wolves down 9-4, Kevin Buchanan (two goals) gave his team new life by breaking the scoring drought with 3:53 left in the third quarter.

Saunders beat Calgary goalie Frank Scigliano for his second goal of the night – his team-leading sixth of the season – to make it 9-6 just 5:18 into the fourth quarter. And when Brett Bucktooth (one goal, one assist) followed with a goal just under two minutes later to make it 9-7, a comeback suddenly seemed possible.

But Calgary, which lost its first two games of the season by scores of 10-8 and 10-9, survived the frantic final minutes.

Sheldon Burns (two goals, one assist) scored in the final second for New England, but it was too late to avert the first loss of 2016.

The Black Wolves will return to action on Sunday when they travel to Georgia to take on the Swarm. Game time is set for 2:15 p.m. and will be broadcast live on NESNplus.

Since 2009, the Collinsville Press has been providing award-winning coverage of sports and news in the Farmington Valley and across Connecticut.

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