Black Wolves' Evans on verge of NLL milestone (1,000 career points)

New England's Shawn Evans, center, takes a shot between Georgia's Jordan MacIntosh, left, and Jason Noble during a National Lacrosse League playoff game on May 6, 2016. Evans is only four points shy of reaching 1,000 career points and will attempt to reach that plateau when the Black Wolves visit Rochester on Saturday night. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
New England's Shawn Evans, center, takes a shot between Georgia's Jordan MacIntosh, left, and Jason Noble during a National Lacrosse League playoff game on May 6, 2016. Evans is only four points shy of reaching 1,000 career points and will attempt to reach that plateau when the Black Wolves visit Rochester on Saturday night. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Glenn Clark remembers playing against Shawn Evans in the National Lacrosse League and that despite Evans' stature — 5-foot-8, 175 pounds — and his age, that the young guy never backed down from anyone.

“He was an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kid. He's not a big man and it's a big man's game at times. He has an incredible motor,” said Clark, now the head coach of the NLL's New England Black Wolves, with Evans as the team's points leader.

“He competes for everything he gets.”

And Saturday nigh at 7:30 — with Evans on the brink of a significant personal milestone — the Black Wolves can clinch their second straight playoff berth with a victory at Rochester.

A win by New England and a loss by Toronto at Saskatchewan would clinch a home playoff game for the Wolves (8-8).

A native of Peterborough in Ontario, Canada, whose father Paul formerly played in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Evans needs just four points to reach the 1,000-point plateau for his career. That would make him just the eighth player in NLL history to achieve that mark.

Evans, who will turn 31 on April 28, is a two-time NLL Most Valuable Player, putting up a career-best 130 points in 2015 for the Calgary Roughnecks, one season prior to joining New England via trade.

This season he has 34 goals and 55 assists for 89 points, none bigger than last Saturday's game-winning goal in overtime before 14,532 fans at Saskatchewan, helping the Wolves earn a 13-12 victory and moving them one step closer to the playoffs.

Evans has one NLL championship to his credit, winning with Rochester in 2007, and said that securing another title with New England is what drives him.

“I didn't really think of it,” Evans said in a telephone interview this week of breaking the 1,000-point barrier. “Our main focus is making the playoffs. Where we were sitting in the playoff standings with (three) games to go, we weren't looking good. That was our main priority. It's a must-win league.

“When you lose, you feel like you're in the dungeon. I like winning a lot more.”

A certain NLL Hall of Famer upon the completion of his career, Evans kept rolling, speaking of winning.

“Just win, win a championship,” Evans said, asked what goals he still wants to accomplish during his career. “I like getting those rings at the end of the year. People ask me what can you do more; you can always get better in some aspect.

“I play to win. I play hard. Those 1,000 points come as a reflection of my teammates … when you find that chemistry, good things happen.”

Evans, drafted by Rochester with the No. 2 pick in the 2005 NLL Draft, has won at every level. He is the only player in history to win the Minto Cup (Canadian Junior lacrosse title), the Mann Cup (Canadian Senior lacrosse title) and the NLL's Champions Cup in a 12-month period.

He also was named MVP of the 2015 Federation of Indoor Lacrosse World Championship in Syracuse, leading Canada to the gold medal with 10 goals and 25 assists.

As for playing hard?

Evans, a right-handed shooting forward, is often the one being mashed between two bigger defenders and fighting his way free. He is a former enforcer from his hockey days — and the youngest of four siblings — so he's not afraid of a challenge from a bulkier opponent.

When they can be, Evans' wife Kayla and daughters Paityn, who will be 9 and has begun playing lacrosse, and 3-year-old twins Ella and Emery are in the stands to watch him.

“It's nice to have them come to games a couple times. It's a huge thing for me,” said Evans, who was pleased to come back to the East Coast after a four-year stint in Calgary. “I'm not the biggest guy, but I try to play like I'm 6-foot-2. I use the heart and the work ethic.

“Hopefully (the girls) are recognizing what their dad is doing. Hopefully that's a positive, that he keeps working, keeps working hard. Just like life's not always easy … you've got to be ready.”

Evans is the co-founder of Nationwide Lacrosse along with Brad Self of the NLL's Colorado Mammoth, who also hails from Peterborough, teaming to design camps and clinics throughout the year which promote indoor lacrosse.

Evans has been in Connecticut a great deal throughout this season, too, also helping to trumpet the Black Wolves, who sold out Mohegan Sun Arena for the first time in 2017, what is their third season in New England. The Black Wolves are averaging 5,287 fans per home game, with a capacity of 7,074.

As for Clark, he's known Evans from a distance for some time, including spending time as an assistant coach with Team Canada when Evans was aboard. He was happy to learn of the Black Wolves' acquisition of Evans from Calgary in what was Clark's first season in New England, as well.

“For him, I think it's significant,” Clark said in a recent conference call of Evans' impending 1,000-point achievement, in his 12th season in the league. “It speaks to longevity and consistency. He does it every year, year in and year out.”

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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