Black Wolves add to their dynamic, while new NLL logo is unveiled at Mohegan Sun
Mohegan — Jay Thorimbert, getting closer to his first game with the New England Black Wolves of the National Lacrosse League after signing a free agent contract with the Wolves in August, didn't even know what the weather was like outside Saturday.
New England went from a team practice to a youth clinic to the unveiling of the NLL's new silvery logo to a Black Wolves' Fan Fest and autograph signing, all at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Thorimbert, formerly of the Buffalo Bandits (which defeated New England in the East Division final), was No. 1 in the league last year in faceoff wins (289) and faceoff win percentage (.578) and the year prior to that set league records with 338 faceoff wins and 246 loose balls.
"I had no feelings (either way whether he was going to leave Buffalo). I didn't expect it," said Thorimbert, who said once the Wolves reached out to him he began talking with other members of the team to see what the staff and the atmosphere were like.
"It's exciting. I was a bit nervous because Buffalo was very familiar, close to home. But it's been been great so far. Me and Chad (Culp, also a former Buffalo player) are on this side now."
The Black Wolves, in their third season in the NLL after relocating from Philadelphia, open their season Jan. 7 at Rochester and play their first home game Jan. 28 ... against Buffalo.
The Wolves' practice early Saturday was one of the first workouts with their newly pared down roster. New England had 42 training camp invitees for 17 roster spots, which provided for a camp in which players had to hustle for positions. New England was 11-10 last year — its first under head coach Glenn Clark — 10-8 in the regular season after finishing 4-14 the year before.
"We added some nice pieces but haven't blown up the foundation," Clark said Saturday. "We made some real good progress last year, but we're still trying to improve around the edges. The biggest thing was how many quality bodies we brought into camp. It made for some difficult decisions."
Clark said that in being swept by Buffalo a year ago in the playoffs, he believed the Bandits had "a little more depth across the board."
In the opener of the series at Mohegan Sun, a 15-10 Bandits victory, the game featured 58 penalty minutes, 32 for Buffalo and 26 for New England.
"The foot (for Buffalo) was on the accelerator the whole time (during that series). ... Getting (Thorimbert) and Culp out of that group, for us it was about getting guys that were going to make us better," Clark said.
"We know they are battle-tested because we did battle against them ourselves," New England's Bill O'Brien said. "We know what they offer. ... (Thorimbert) is one of the best faceoff men in the entire NLL. We could be getting a lot more posessions per game. What could we do if we had five, six, seven more possessions per game?"
Thorimbert, who lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada, and was league Most Valuable Player while competing for the University of Guelph, also in Ontario, said being a premier faceoff specialist isn't something he practices.
"In this league, you probably get 300-400 faceoffs; it's something you practice by doing it. ... I also take pride in the fact I can play defense. in the NLL, there's no place for a FOGO (face-off, get-off)."
Meanwhile, NLL commisioner Nick Sakiewicz was in attendance for the presentation of the league's new logo, which features one prong of a silver star for each of the NLL's inaugural franchises in Philly, Baltimore, New Jersey and Washington.
Sakiewicz spoke of seeing his first NLL game about a year ago and describing it as "sensory overload."
"It's a dynamic experience in the arena. We have to unlock it," said Sakiewicz, who described the technology, including helmet-cams and drones which will soon be incorporated into NLL games. "... Today is our day."
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