The New England Black Wolves had a determined mentality when they arrived at the Air Canada Centre on Friday: Win, win, win. They did just that with a 10-9 overtime score over the host Toronto Rock. The Wolves improve to 4-6 and remain in fourth place.
The Rock dropped a second consecutive game for the first time this season; it was also their second consecutive home OT loss. Their hot start to the season has cooled; they are now 1-3 in their last four games. They drop to 5-4 on the season but retain their hold on second place.
It was an Evans-less game, as both Shawn (NE) and Turner (TOR) are out with ankle injuries. Both were seen at the ACC wearing walking casts.
Shawn leads the Wolves in scoring with 55 points (and is fifth in league scoring, as well). His dynamic presence is an intangible the Wolves dearly miss when he’s not in the lineup.
Turner’s absence was felt from the Rock lineup as well. In his sophomore season, he is sitting fourth in team scoring with 29 points including 22 assists. He’s turned into a great playmaker.
Despite missing the former league MVP, the Wolves were not lacking offensively. Kevin Buchanan scored four goals and three assists including one shorthanded goal and the game-tying goal that caused overtime.
“We needed that one, we needed that one desperately,” Buchanan said post-game. “It was really important for us to turn the tide a little bit and get on a winning streak here. It was a great game – back and forth. We made those small micro-plays and obviously it went our way.”
“He’s a guy who’s so athletic and… he can shoot,” said Black Wolves head coach Glenn Clark. “We know that’s there. [With Pat Saunders having moved on, Buchanan] gets more of the premiere looks and that’s the kind of stuff he can do. It’s a different look, but the offense is in its entirety. We [don’t] talk a lot about what we were missing, we [talk] about what we have.”
The game was tied at three after the first quarter and tied at five at the half. Brett Hickey, Tom Schreiber and Stephan Leblanc scored for the Rock in the first. Kevin Crowley, Reilly O’Connor and Seth Oakes tallied for the Wolves. Reid Reinholdt scored a pair to open the second quarter and Buchanan scored a pair to close it.
Daryl Veltman, with his second goal in as many games since signing with the Black Wolves, gave New England a 6-5 lead in the third. Buchanan’s hat-trick goal spelled the Wolves a two goal lead. Latrell Harris picked up his third goal of his career with a jump shot over the crease.
Dan Lintner scored at 1:06 of the fourth quarter to tie the game at seven. Hickey’s second of the game put the Rock up 8-7 at 2:24. New England challenged the goal but replays showed Hickey hovering over the crease Jedi-style (it was Star Wars night at the ACC) as the ball went in. Crowley’s second goal on a delayed penalty call tied things again.
It was a back and forth game, with neither team holding momentum in the most important quarter.
“We stayed pretty calm, pretty cool,” said Clark. “It’s so easy to swing back and forth with the momentum and you really have to calm yourself down with that… You’re never too far ahead and you’re never too far behind in this game. One of the things were trying to preach to these guys is that even keel, that level presence on the floor and we did a pretty good job of it tonight.”
Rock captain Brodie Merrill finished off a two on one fast break at 10:18 to put Toronto up 9-8. It was Buchanan though, of course, who sent the game to OT at 12:33.
Merrill was disappointed with the second OT loss and stressed the need for the team to fix some things in their upcoming practices.
“I think we could have been a little bit better, myself included,” Merrill said. “If you look back critically there are some things we need to get better at… That’s all we want to do in any game is look at things critically and focus on areas of improvement and keep moving forward.”
In overtime, each team had a possession before Stephan Leblanc put the ball past Evan Kirk. The ACC erupted into cheers, then boo as the referees called Leblanc for a crease violation.
“We knew it was close, we were just hoping for a favourable call. It’s unlucky but that’s the game,” Merrill said. “We have to try to stay on an even keel during those emotional ups and downs. We felt like things were turning in our favour later, starting to get some positive momentum, but they responded and were able to finish at the end.”
On the next possession, the Rock coughed up the ball at centre. It was picked up by Kyle Buchanan who, while falling, made a no-look flip pass to Sheldon Burns at centre. Burns scored at 2:33.
Buchanan felt it in his heart when Leblanc beat Kirk.
“My heart sunk a little bit there but we were fortunate that he was in the crease,” Buchanan said. “We dialed back in and re-focused ourselves. Bucky made a great play there to give it to Burnsie at the end there and Burnsie finished it.”
Kirk made 47 saves for the Black Wolves, while Nick Rose made 36 in the Rock net.
The Black Wolves were relieved to get the win.
“Every win is so crucial in this league,” said Buchanan. “The parity in this league is outrageous, every win is so vital.”