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Closing In: Black Wolves Pull Away From Rock, 14-10

Shawn Evans made National Lacrosse League history as the New England Black Wolves (9-5) defeated the Toronto Rock (4-10) and moved closer to securing a playoff berth on Saturday night before a crowd of 10,128 at Air Canada Centre.

On his assist of Pat Saunders’ goal 1:36 into the fourth quarter, Evans picked up his fifth point of the night. It was also his 100th point of the season, making the Black Wolves forward the first player in NLL history to score 100 or more points in four consecutive seasons. He wrapped up the game with two goals and five assists and now has 102 points on the year.

Evans’ second goal, with 3:37 remaining in the game, ended a three goal Toronto rally in the fourth quarter that had brought the Rock to within 12-9 and helped preserve the win for New England.

Evan Kirk had 50 saves in goal for the Black Wolves. New England was 5-for-7 on the power play one night after going 5-of-5 with the man advantage in the win over Saskatchewan at Mohegan Sun Arena.

With a loss by Georgia to Colorado on Sunday, the Black Wolves will secure a playoff berth for the first time since the franchise relocated to New England.

Saunders and Kevin Crowley each recorded a hat trick for New England (9-5) in the win. It was the sixth hat trick of the season for Saunders — a career-high — and the fifth for Crowley. Saunders also had two assists to finish with five points while Crowley added one for four points. Crowley now has 77 points on the year, a new single-season career-high for the forward.

Crowley got the scoring started off a rebound just 52 seconds into play to give New England the lead. Toronto (4-10) followed that up on a goal by Rob Hellyer 38 seconds later to tie it at 1-1 and increased the lead just 18 seconds later on a score by Turner Evans. Crowley picked up his second on the power play with 10:52 remaining in the first.

Toronto took the lead again with 9:51 remaining, but Brett Bucktooth picked up his third goal of the season shorthanded on the transition to tie the score at 3-3. Kevin Buchanan put the Black Wolves back up 4-3 with 5:35 left in the first. New England would not trail again in the game.

Sheldon Burns, having a career-year, scored behind the back over his shoulder on transition 1:06 into the second to put New England up 5-3. Toronto scored to get back within one on the power play before Crowley secured his hat trick on the power play with 7:29 left in the half. Just over a minute later, Saunders scored off of a rebound to put New England up 7-4. Jordan Hall put the Black Wolves up 8-4 with 40 seconds left in the half on the power play.

After two Black Wolves penalties put New England down two men, Toronto scored to cut the lead to three at 8-5 with 11:19 left in the third. As the second penalty expired, Ryan Hotaling picked up another transition goal for the Black Wolves to increase the New England lead back to four. Saunders picked up his second of the night on the power play with 6:03 left to give the Black Wolves a 10-5 advantage.

Toronto scored on the power play to cut it back to 10-6 with 2:36 left in the third. Saunders wrapped up the hat trick on the power play to put New England back up by five just 1:36 into the fourth. Evans picked up his first goal of the night to give the Black Wolves a 12-6 lead with 9:18 left in the game. A quick three goal flurry from the Rock cut the advantage to 12-9 with five minutes remaining. However, Evans picked up his second goal of the night behind the back and Zac Reid scored off the ensuing face off to put the Black Wolves back up by five and secure the victory.

Kasey Beirnes had four points on three goals and one assist to lead the Rock while Hellyer had two goals and two assists. Nick Rose had 47 saves for Toronto.

Three Stars of the Game:

1) Evan Kirk
2) Shawn Evans
3) Brodie Merrill

Story via BlackWolves.com. Photo by Graig Abel.