Di Miller, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Di Miller
The Philadelphia Wings (3-1) hosted the Vancouver Warriors (1-4) at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. The arena was packed with LaxCon in town and the 9,676 fans would not be disappointed. The Wings would come away with the win, their third consecutive victory; the first time in franchise history they have won back-to-back-to-back contests. Vancouver would be without Bob Snider at the face-off dot for the first time this season and it was detrimental to the team. Final Score: Wings 18—Warriors 10.
The “Big Cat” Kevin Crowley would score his 300th career goal during the contest; net-minder Zach Higgins made an astounding 40 saves on 50 shots for an .800 Sv% on the night; and Trevor Baptiste who in 2019, broke the NLL single season face-off wins record of 338 set by Jay Thorimbert in 2015 with 362 (.680 FO%) went 28-32 in the contest.
In the first there was a lot of back and forth action for the first three and half minutes before the Wings got on the board at the 3:38 mark with an overhand shot from Kevin Crowley (3g, 2a) far side low. Brett Hickey (3g), the first player signed by the Wings in the expansion draft in 2019 would notch his first goal in his first game back after missing the majority of last season due to an injury. He’d bounce one home under the left hand on Aaron Bold at the 4:21 mark putting Philly up 2-0. The tennis match ensued with each team matching shot for shot, and the net-minders holding strong. Vancouver would break the silence with Riley Loewen (1g, 1a) on the two-man game switch set he’d find a spot in the upper left corner to break the goose egg on the score board 2-1 Wings at the 9:35 mark. A couple of minutes ticked off and the Warriors would notch the equalizer and the final goal in the frame. Mitch Jones would send the skip pass to Jordan McBride (2g, 2a), he was able to break free of the Wings defense with the face dodge faked far pipe and pulled it near pipe to tip toe the crease with 3:44 left. Shots on goal favored Vancouver 12-8; loose balls favored Philadelphia 19-17; and the Wings controlled the face-off dot 5-0. Score at the end of one: Wings 2—Warriors 2.
A low scoring first led to a high scoring second. The Wings would go on a four-goal run to start the frame. The Warriors would win their first face-off of the contest, but would lose the ball and Trevor Baptiste (2g) would scoop the loosie and head down the field on the break in transition with an over the top shot to beat Bold only 58 seconds in to break the tie and they never looked back. Blaze Riorden (3g, 4a) would notch his first of the season off the assist from Matt Rambo on the pick and roll, he’d fake hike; shoot low less than a minute later. At the 2:35 mark, Josh Currier (4g, 4a) would grab the outlet pass from Zach Higgins and was able to sneak one through the legs on Bold sending him to the bench and the Wings were up 5-2 just like that. It took a couple of minutes, but Philadelphia wasn’t done and Currier would notch his second on the night at the 5:33 mark off the back-hand pass from Cory Vitarelli beating Eric Penney five-hole giving the Wings a 6-2 lead. Vancouver was able to stop the run at the 7:08 mark with a goal from Justin Salt (1g, 1a) his first of the season in transition, he’d bury it on the run upper left corner to close the gap. But the celebration was short-lived as Philadelphia would hit back only 21 seconds later with back-to-back goals from Vitarelli (2g, 3a). He’d bury the first from the outside catching Penney off-guard; and the second was off the big rebound on the Riorden shot, Vitarelli grabbed the loosie when the ball popped off Penney, and popped it in giving them a five goal lead. Vancouver would hit back with a couple more, one from McBride at 9:24 with a power-play tally with a quick catch and release shot near pipe off the no look pass from Keegan Bal; and the second from Joel McCready (3g, 1a) with a twister shot bouncing one through the five-hole at the 11:09 mark closing the gap 8-5. This was McCready’s second game since coming back from a season ending injury early last season. Philly would go on their own man-up with 18.5 seconds left in the half. Hickey faked a side arm shot and went over the top stick side with three seconds left in the frame putting the Wings back up by four. The Warrior still led in shots on goal 16-14; the Wings still led in loose balls 27-20; and also had a commanding lead at the face-off dot going 7-11, with Vancouver going 2-11. Score at the end of two: Wings 9—Warriors 5.
Philadelphia would again take their momentum into the third scoring quickly. Currier would notch his hat-trick only 22 seconds in. Riorden would feed the ball to Currier far side and he’d use the quick stick and hit near side pipe off the rebound putting them into double digits 10-5. Hickey would be next to notch a hat-trick on the night winding up and unloading a shot off the screen, he’d hit glove side and bury it low at the 3:36 mark. The Warriors would break up another Wings run with a lefty shot from Mitch Jones. With a late switch on the defense for Philly, it allowed Jones to find an opening and he hit upper left corner 11-6 Wings at the 5:26 mark. And just like that, Philadelphia would go on yet another four-goal run. Riorden started it off at 7:37 with a nice back door cut far side; and then the Big Cat would score his 300th career goal and it was a highlight reel goal. This would start a three-shorthanded goal run for the Wings. The Crowley goal came at the 10:23 mark with Currier and the pick and roll with the pass to Crowley with the one-handed over the shoulder catch, he threads the needle to bury it upper left hand corner; next up Baptiste would win the ensuing face-off, head down the floor fake left hand and fire it right hand for an unassisted goal 8 seconds later. The Baptiste goal would send Penney back to the bench and Bold heading back out to the cage. But it didn’t take long before the Wings fired back and Currier would notch his fourth on the night at the 11:51 mark with their third short-handed goal in a row. Currier came up the right-hand alley and bounced it in far side low giving them a nine goal lead 15-6. With 1:17 left in the third, tempers flared and the Warriors would get the opportunity on another man-up situation. They would capitalize with 14.6 seconds left on the clock when McCready dove in from the left side for the power play tally, reached around and buried it low. The Wings now led in all categories: SOG 17-11; LB 26-13; FO 7-9. Score at the end of three: Wings 15—Warriors 7.
The teams matched goal for goal in the fourth with Vancouver starting it off. Chris O’Dougherty (1g, 1a) in transition set up high and went low five-hole on Higgins 33 seconds in for his first goal of the season; and Jones would get his second on the night with some incredible ball movement by Vancouver in front of the Wings cage. They’d control the ball and McBride dished the pass to Jones on the back side and beat Higgins with a quick catch and release at the 3:43 mark closing the gap 15-9. The Wings matched the two goals with another from Crowley at the 4:10 mark; and Stef Charbonneau notching a beauty with a back door cut one time shot, he beat Bold near side pipe at the 5:03 mark. Vancouver would get one final goal in the contest on the man-up with McCready notching his hat-trick with a low shot under the left hand of Higgins at the 7:34 mark; and the final goal of the game came from the Wings with Riorden notching his hat-trick with a turnaround low shot five-hole on Bold with 2:24 left on the ticker. Philadelphia was able to control the ball for the remaining minutes while Vancouver watched another one get away. Final Score: Wings 18—Warriors 10.
Vancouver: 50 SOG; 19 SOFF; 66 LB; 4-32 FO; 3-7 PP; 6 PIM
Philadelphia: 55 SOG; 20 SOFF; 93 LB; 28-32 FO; 1-1 PP; 14 PIM
Vancouver Eric Penney: 37 SOG; 27 Saves; 10 GA; .730 Sv%
Vancouver Aaron Bold: 18 SOG; 10 Saves; 8 GA; .555 Sv%
Philadelphia Zach Higgins: 50 SOG; 40 Saves; 10 GA; .800 Sv%
Philadelphia after a lackluster season in 2019 has come back strong and they are clicking on all cylinders. Vancouver needs to get back to the drawing board and figure out what they need to do to get the momentum going. In their loss against the Mammoth on January 4, the Warriors started out strong and fizzled out in the final quarters. They need to play a full 60 minutes of lacrosse. They’ve got two of the top scorers in the NLL right now, Mitch Jones; and Jordan McBride, but the team has to find a way to score; protect their goal keeper and win at the face-off dot.
The Philadelphia Wings (3-1) head over to New England (3-0) to face their East Division rivals on Saturday January 18, game time 7:00 p.m. EST.
The Vancouver Warriors (1-3) head back home and will host the Colorado Mammoth (3-1) for a rematch on Friday January 17, game time 10:30 p.m. EST. This is the only time the Warriors will host the Mammoth at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Di Miller, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©