Black Wolves win third straight, edging Georgia 13-12 on goal by Digby

Mohegan — New England Black Wolves coach Glenn Clark was speaking on this week's conference call of the potential for Georgia arriving at Mohegan Sun tired for Saturday night's game following a Friday night matchup in Toronto.

"We look a lot at this over the years," Clark said. "It's surprising how many teams that are on the back-to-back are successful. It's weird."

Clark was only happy, in this case, to be wrong, especially against a team in Georgia which came into the weekend unbeaten and had topped the Wolves once already this season.

Tyler Digby scored the game-winning goal for New England on a power play with 2 minutes, 52 seconds remaining, underhanding a shot on an assist from Reilly O'Connor, to give the Black Wolves a spirited 13-12 victory over Georgia before 4,393 fans at Mohegan Sun Arena.

It was the third straight win for New England (3-1), while Georgia fell to 4-2 with a loss Friday night at Toronto (14-9) and the defeat against the Black Wolves.

"I think there's a lot of doubters outside of our room," said Digby, who finished with two goals and three assists. "We have a lot of character guys who take that to heart and want to prove people wrong every week. We keep jelling and that's a big one to grind out there tonight."

"It's huge," New England's Callum Crawford said. "That's such a special team (in Georgia). You have to dig deep for those type of wins. They're not going to let you be successful. You have to put on your hard hat. It's such a game of inches. Anything can happen to determine a game like that."

The Black Wolves, celebrating the fifth anniversary of the franchise by wearing commemorative jerseys, got a big contribution from defender Ryan Fournier, who scored two goals for the first time in his career, an over-the-shoulder score from Crawford and 37 saves from goalie Alex Buque, who earned his second victory of the season.

Crawford finished with three goals and three assists for New England and Fournier, Stephan Leblanc, Digby and Dereck Downs had two goals each. Reilly O'Connor finished with six assists, tying a career high.

The game was tied 11 times and neither team held more than a one-goal lead until the Black Wolves scored three straight to end the third quarter, taking a 12-10 advantage.

Georgia, though, got a pair of goals from Lyle Thompson (4 goals, 1 assist) to start the fourth, necessitating the deciding goal from Digby.

Georgia's Brendan Bomberry was penalized two minutes for holding a Black Wolves stick with 4:02 remaining.

Then New England, Digby said, instead of taking a shot from outside, got the ball inside to him, where he used his 6-foot-3, 265-pound frame to hold off a defender. He initially passed the ball to O'Connor, who gave it back, leading to the score.

"That's a good Georgia team," Clark said. "They're an active, strong, physical team. You earn it."

Georgia led 4-3 after one quarter, but the Black Wolves — of course — tied the back-and-forth game 6-6 at halftime, as the teams alternated goals in the second quarter.

Digby made it 4-4 for the Wolves 2:13 into the second, assisted on the power play by O'Connor and Leblanc. Georgia's Shayne Jackson gave the Swarm the 5-4 edge a short time later, but New England scored another power play goal with 7:18 to play in the quarter when Georgia's Zed Williams was called for checking from behind.

Leblanc intercepted an attempted clear by the Swarm, waited for the offense to sprint back on to the floor after beginning to head to the bench, and Crawford eventually scored on an assist from Digby on a flashy possession which featured a behind-the-back pass. Crawford's goal made it 5-5.

Thompson scored to give Georgia a 6-5 lead with 3:02 in the half, but Downs scored for the Wolves to make it 6-6 at the 1:59 mark on assists from Crawford and Leblanc.

And so the second half played out, as well, tied right up until the final moments.

"We've proved that we've done anything to get two points the last three games," Digby said. "We just have to keep building and getting better."

Formerly the Philadelphia Wings, the franchise moved to Mohegan Sun for the 2014-15 season and was rebranded as the Black Wolves. The Wolves played their home-opener on Jan. 2, 2015, beating the Buffalo Bandits 12-8 before 5,768 fans.

v.fulkerson@theday.com

 

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