Editor’s Note: Our own Jeff Melnik was pressing his lens against the glass in order to give us an up-close and personal look at the action. Take the time to look at all 85 of his snapshots for a unique perspective on game one of the NLL season. Click on either side of the photo above to scroll through the gallery!
The 2017-18 NLL season kicked off on Friday and there was nothing as surprising in the first night like the New England Black Wolves, 13-11, win over the defending champions, the Georgia Swarm.
The first quarter featured a 10 goal shootout, with equal points belonging to each side. Georgia came out and stunned their host in the second frame with a 3-0 jump, only to get an angry New England response out of the half. Seth Oakes, Kevin Buchanan, and Shawn Evans took off on a three goal run of their own, sandwiched by tallies from Randy Staats and Johnny Powless. Big Cat Kevin Crowley got in the mix toward the end of the quarter and punched in two late goals to tie the game at 10 and swing momentum toward New England for the fourth.
Doing what he does best, Shawn Evans strapped up and led his squad to their first win of the year. A part of every goal in the final 15 minutes, Evans aided Reilly O’Connor to his first of the season and Crowley to the third of his hat trick, while touching in his second of the night for 9 total points.
Aaron Bold got his first-ever start for New England after serving the Rush organization for the past 6 seasons and it was well-received by players and fans. Making 33 saves on 44 shots on goal in a debut against a dynamic offense like Georgia’s is no small task. The veteran provided he’s got a lot left to give in the tank and help the Black Wolves make a run at the Cup.
Having Jesse King back on the lefty side is a huge perk for Georgia, who barely altered much in the offseason. In his first game back after a season off, King raked in 3 goals and an assist, matching righty Randy Staats’ numbers as offensive leader. While Lyle was held to a single goal, and Miles scoreless, the two spent more time distributing the ball and earned 4 and 3 points respectively. Lyle was good for 10 loose balls and winning 5 of 9 draw attempts, doing the dirty work for the Swarm to make his contribution.
Both squads have a lot to watch out for this season. While Georgia has the talent and the youthfulness to make another run at a title, New England trimmed the fat and filled roles with speed and stick skills. If they don’t have the quickest transition group in the NLL, I’ll eat my hat (does anyone have a candy hat?).