Black Wolves get a clean slate when they visit Toronto in NLL playoffs

The New England Black Wolves lost their final two games of the regular season to fall to 8-10 entering the playoffs.

But Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark isn’t looking at like that.

“A lot gets forgiven and forgotten when you win in the playoffs,” Clark said this week in a conference call. “I don’t think there’s going to be a hangover or carry-over with any sort of negative from the regular season.

“We’re excited. We’re excited to get started. The regular season was up and down for us, but we did qualify for the playoffs. Now everybody’s 0-0. The slate gets wiped clean.”

The third-seeded Black Wolves face the second-seeded Toronto Rock (9-9) in a one-game playoff at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The winner goes on to meet top-seeded Georgia in a best-of-three series for the National Lacrosse League’s East Division championship.

New England could have hosted Toronto in the one-game playoff with a win over Vancouver in its final regular-season game, but fell to the Stealth 17-16 in overtime. The Wolves lost the game before that to Rochester 15-13.

Clark said he believes his players understand that it was a series of what he called subpar performances that got them into the situation they’re in.

He calls them “in a pretty good head space,” however, entering the playoffs for the second straight season. The Wolves won their one-game playoff a year ago against Georgia before falling to Buffalo in the division finals.

New England has beaten four of the other five teams that are in the playoffs, including both division champions — Georgia in the East and Saskatchewan in the West — and a two-game sweep of Toronto. The Wolves defeated the Rock 10-9 March 3 at Toronto and 15-14 April 2 at home.

The Black Wolves won’t have far to travel for Saturday’s game. The team, with the bulk of its roster living in the general vicinity, practices in Toronto.

New England is led by Shawn Evans with 38 goals and 65 assists for 103 points, giving him 100 points or more in an NLL record fifth straight season. Kevin Crowley has a team-high 45 goals with 40 assists for 85 points and is followed by Kevin Buchanan (25 goals, 49 assists, 74 points) and Kyle Buchanan (31 goals, 38 assists, 69 points).

Jay Thorimbert has won 302 of 525 faceoffs, eclipsing 2,000 career faceoff wins in the game against Vancouver. That made him just the third player in league history to achieve that mark.

Tom Schreiber leads Toronto with 33 goals and 61 assists for 94 points.

Clark said one positive from last week was the energy with which the Black Wolves played. They wound up with a franchise-record 82 shots against the Stealth, scoring six straight goals to get back in the game, and hustled to pick up loose ball after loose ball.

“There was a lot of positives out of last week’s game other than the result,” Clark said. “Admittedly, the goalies would want some of those back. That’s the game sometimes. But we were pretty active. We were pretty energized. It’s a game of mistakes. You identify them, learn from them, don’t make them again.

“One thing was, we weren’t flat.”

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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