When the National Lacrosse League suspended play due to the pandemic, the action plan changed for the players. Major League Lacrosse was in the twilight of their existence, merging with the Premier Lacrosse League. Still, while the sport never left, the Philadelphia Wings were on a sort of hiatus. The city was ready for the return of the NLL and Wings lacrosse.
“We know we have a huge following in Philly, some loyal fans that are probably even more excited to get back to it than us.”Paul Day; 12/1/2021
Kicking off a new season against an expansion franchise is a challenge. Sometimes, the expansion teams start their story with an exclamation to their point. Panther City dictated the pace in the first half against a top-flight Philadelphia franchise. The Wings were an NLL expansion, too. Paul Day recounts the evolution from then to now:
“Our first year we were an expansion team, so we had a lot of players in camp. Our second year, a lot of players in camp, but after being off for so long we really focused on building chemistry.”Paul Day; 12/1/2021
Philadelphia found their stride. Down by three at the half, Day made the adjustments a reigning NLL General Manager of the Year and Les Bartley Award winner would. A hot jump in the third quarter salvaged the home opener for the Wings.
Cory Vitarelli, Ben McIntosh, and Matt Rambo dominated the third quarter versus Panther City. Efforts from Brett Hickey and Trevor Baptiste weren’t unrecognized, especially when Philadelphia began converting on offense due to high volume faceoff victories.
Hickey secured a hat-trick in the fourth, but when Rambo did the same, he called it a game in overtime.
Per Devan Kaney, Kiel Matisz was shaken up, but okay. He did not return to a close game. It looked like he favored his leg as he was helped off the field by the Philadelphia Wings training staff.
He led the Wings in forced turnovers, standing out on defense.
The Philadelphia Wings (1-0) hope to extend the opening night victory into a winning streak on Friday. They face the New York Riptide, a former NLL expansion franchise from 2020. Then, the Riptide was a 1-12 team before the NLL suspended play.
Now, New York has a new coach. Following the 1-12 record, Regy Thorpe was relieved of his duties. It’s Dan Ladouceur’s team. He’s a noted winner, winning five championships as a player on the Toronto Rock. Ladouceur is bringing his passion to the Riptide’s bench.
Similarly, New York scored twelve goals in their first game in the 2021 season. The difference resides in the record books.
Overtime lacrosse is one of the most exciting spectacles in all sports (except for overtime in playoff hockey.)
The Riptide played the same role the Panther City Lacrosse Club did. These teams are focused on correcting their first complete season in the NLL. New York hasn’t ever defeated the Wings, losing twice in regulation. With the momentum, a team led by Paul Day with Matt Rambo and Brett Hickey buzzing is hard to stop. It’ll be a crucial test for Ladouceur, coaching his second NLL game with a 0-1 record.