Di Miller, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Mike McGinnis
On Saturday May 7, 2022, the final two teams met to determine who would meet in the Semi-Finals for the Western Division title. The San Diego Seals (11-8) who were the No. One Seed in the West hosted the Philadelphia Wings (9-10), the first ever Wild Card team and the No. Four Seed from the East. The 6,726 Seals fans at Pechanga Arena were in for a treat as they witnessed an amazing battle of the net minders and a full 60 minutes of non-stop lacrosse. The Seals were the only team in the league to have both a six-game winning streak and a six-game losing streak. Their victory in Vancouver during the final week of the regular season snapping that streak is what moved them back into first place with a little help from the Calgary Roughnecks otherwise, they would have taken the number two seed due to their head-to-head record against Calgary. The last time these two teams met on April 8, the contest went into OT with Philadelphia notching the victory 13-12. Some other key notable stats: Philadelphia was 5-0 in OT which is the best in NLL history; they were 5-4 when scoring first; they were 8-0 when tied or leading heading into the fourth; and they were 5-2 in one goal games. San Diego was 4-6 when scoring first; and 3-5 in one goal games. Tonight, most of those stats went out the door as San Diego would score first, and they defeated the Wings in a one-goal contest. Final Score: Seals 9—Wings 8.
The Wings would win the opening draw and face-off specialists Trevor Baptiste (17-21, 12LB) would have a stellar night winning the majority of the draws. The Seals would go man-up early on and they’d capitalize off the quick stick release from Wes Berg (2g, 1a) when he’d find the far corner up top for a power-play tally 1-0 San Diego at 3:30. They’d notch another when Dane Dobbie (2g, 2a) in close scored on the crease dive and dunked it far side at 5:03 and they were up 2-0. The net minders were amazing for the next six and a half minutes before another ball would hit twine. Wings goal-keeper Zach Higgins would send an outlet pass to Steph Charbonneau (1g) on the break, he’d head down the floor, dive at the crease, time the bounce perfectly, shoot up and over and tucked it over the shoulder of Frank Scigliano at 11:37 cutting the lead to one 2-1. Both defenses were playing extremely well and making the offenses work for every shot. With 2:19 left in the frame, the Wings went man-up. Kiel Matisz (2g) on the doorstep fired on Scigliano, got his own rebound and fired it back down low under the leg for a power-play marker for the equalizer 2-2. It took a little over a minute before the Seals struck back. Berg would get the turnover in front of the restraining line, went in all alone and with a couple of high pump fakes, buried it down low far side for the go-ahead marker. First quarter stats: SOG—Philadelphia 12 San Diego 11; Saves—Philadelphia 8 San Diego 10; Face-offs Philadelphia 6-6 San Diego 0-6. Score at the end of one: Seals 3—Wings 2.
Once again the Wings would win the draw to open the second, but as in the first the Seals would draw first blood. This time the scoring would start quick for San Diego when Eli Gobrecht on the fast break, fed the ball to rookie Patrick Shoemay (2g) on the doorstep and he used a beautiful crease dive to dunk it far side for his first career NLL goal 40 seconds in. There would be no scoring for over eight minutes but in that time, Philly would go man up twice and capitalize on the second penalty. Kevin Crowley would send the skip pass to Matt Rambo (3g), and he bounced one in tucking it near side for a power-play tally and his first NLL playoff goal with 6:08 left in the half 4-3 Seals. A couple more ticked off the timer and San Diego answered right back. Dobbie with the feed to Jeremy Noble (1g, 3a) faked low and went high to rip it past Higgins top corner extending the lead back to two 5-3 with 4:19 until the half. Each team would run the floor taking shots on cage, but both net-minders were standing on their heads until the last few seconds. Kyle Jackson (2g) would head to the cage, fake high and go low to beat Scigliano five hole with 18.9 left in the half. Second quarter stats: SOG—Philadelphia 11 San Diego 14; Saves—Philadelphia 12 San Diego 9; Face-offs Philadelphia 4-5 San Diego 1-5. Score at the end of two: Seals 5—Wings 4.
The third got off to a snail’s pace of start. In the first five minutes the Wings only had 4 SOG and San Diego had 1. It wasn’t until the 5:51 mark that the Seals were even able to take their second SOG. Finally, after 6:12 had ticked off the timer the silence was broken, and the Wings tied it up at 5’s. Rambo used a good spin move to get open, set his feet and buried it far side. This was the first time the game had been tied since the Matisz goal in the first with 2:19 left in the quarter. The scoring barrage started about four minutes later. Austin Staats (2g, 3a) headed to the cage, and as he was falling down threw a twister shot to put it over the left shoulder with 4:34 left notching his first career playoff goal 6-5 Seals. It took only 23 seconds before they’d score again. Staats headed to the cage, snuck around his defender, jumped, faked far side and brought it back near side with 4:11 to go 7-5. With 3:32 left, Philadelphia would have another man-up opportunity and they’d score early. Crowley would send a BTB feed to Matisz and he buried it far side over two defenders 10 seconds into the power-play 7-6. On the next possession, the Wings would turn it over at the midfield line, Tre LeClaire would see Shoemay all alone and heading to the cage, he fired it to Shoemay who buried it far side with 2:10 and once again the Seals were up 8-6. The teams continued to battle, Rambo had possession he muscled his way through with four defenders on his back and with five seconds on the shot clock, fired it across his body with 17 seconds in the third cutting the lead to one. Third quarter stats: SOG—Philadelphia 12 San Diego 10; Saves—Philadelphia 9 San Diego 7; Face-offs Philadelphia 5-7 San Diego 2-7. Score at the end of three: Seals 8—Wings 7.
It was do or die for Philadelphia with one frame to go. The Seals had the momentum heading into the fourth and wanted to keep it going. But the net minders weren’t making it easy. The quarter got off to another slow start. After almost a seven-minute tennis match, the Wings had only put 4 SOG and the Seals had put 8 before a point would go up. Dobbie would sting the far corner with the high heat at the 6:52 mark tying Gary Gait for the 2nd most post season goals in NLL history with 67 increasing the lead back to two 9-7. The Seals thought they had another goal with about six and a half left in the game and would throw the challenge flag. Dobbie made the shot on cage, Higgins made the stop with the ball bouncing a couple times, he got a stick on it, and it looked like it rolled in. The refs ruled “inconclusive evidence” so the call on the floor stood as “no goal”. The fans were furious. Philadelphia would score with 4:19 left, their final in the contest. Ben McIntosh set up behind the cage, fed to Jackson and he was able to shoot around his defender, come over the top and find the top corner closing the gap to one. Both Higgins and Scigliano made some great saves; and the Seals defense was able to keep the Wings offense from setting up any plays. With 16.5 on the ticker, Paul Day would call a timeout to set up the final play. They’d go 6 on 5 but the Seals would gain possession when Brodie Merrill caused the turnover to “Seal” the deal. They would control the ball for the last seconds to win their first post season game in franchise history. Final Score: Seals 9—Wings 6.
The San Diego Seals (11-9) the No. One Seed in the West will host the Colorado Mammoth (11-9) the No. Three Seed in the West on Friday May 13th, 2022, at Pechanga Arena for the Semi-Finals Best of Three series. Game time 10:00 p.m. EST. Fans in the USA can see the game on ESPN+. Fans in Canada can catch the action on TSN Direct.
Philadelphia Wings—SOG 52; Saves 52; Face-offs 17-21; PP 3-4; Assists 11; LB 63; TO 12
San Diego Seals—SOG 61; Saves 44; Face-offs 4-21; PP 1-2; Assists 13; LB 63; TO 11
Di Miller, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©