In each of those contests, the Wings were on the winning end. Blaze Riorden added the exclamation point, catapulting his club into the playoffs at the expense of the Swarm with a shorthanded, overtime game-winner.
“Whenever we play, it’s usually a one-goal game.”Paul Day; 12/17/2022
On the road again, Philadelphia (0-1) visited Georgia (0-1.) One of these teams was occupying the win column for the first time in the 2022-2023 NLL campaign. This tilt was the first of two this season between these budding rivals.
Zach Higgins had a rough outing against the Halifax Thunderbirds. He saved 12/21 shots before being pulled for Angus Goodleaf. Out of the gate, would there be a goaltending controversy brewing? Paul Day nipped that in the bud immediately, rolling with Higgins.
Wings at Swarm
Bryan Cole put the Swarm on the scoreboard first. Sam LeClair answered, followed by Riorden to give the Wings their first lead. Adam Wiedemann and Ben McIntosh each had two goals in the first. Wiedemann scored back-to-back, capped off with an additional by Brendan Bomberry.
The powerplay units for both clubs didn’t convert in their 2022-2023 debut. Matt Rambo changed that in the second, bringing Philadelphia within one. Georgia couldn’t score on their powerplay chance, but Shayne Jackson did extend the lead back to two goals. At halftime, the Swarm led the Wings, 7-5.
Things began to get chippy between Philadelphia and Georgia in the third. Steph Charbonneau and Ian Llord set their boundaries in the neutral zone. At the expense of Llord, the Swarm had a couple of powerplay chances. The Wings’ penalty kill came up big, however. The two teams traded goals throughout the period, where Lyle Thompson scored twice.
Here is where Philadelphia ran away on the scoreboard. Down three goals, the Wings streaked five scoring plays together to kick off the final quarter. Georgia made a goaltending change, swapping Craig Wende out for Brett Dobson. As usual, tests between these two clubs came down to the wire. Hunter Lemieux scored his first career NLL goal, and it was the game-winner as Higgins secured the victory with one more save at the final buzzer.
Philadelphia improved to 1-1 in 2022-2023 with a 13-12 victory in Sting City.
Zach Higgins (+)
He rebounded after an awful first outing. The way he performed against the Swarm is encouraging. After allowing six goals in the first, he surrendered as many over the next three quarters. Higgins found a way to slow down the opposing offense, and some of the credit belongs to a physical defense in transition.
“He was really efficient in his preparation. He was really efficient in his game tonight. He was stopping everything inside the pipes, not worried about moving outside the pipes. He’s been our backbone for the last two years. We have a ton of confidence in him; great leader and one of the best goaltenders in the league.”Paul Day; 12/17/2022
Along with Charbonneau and Llord, who made their presence known in Georgia, Higgins was a part of the backbone. In another one-goal game between these rivals, every save was crucial. The Swarm had final chances to send the game into overtime. Higgins wouldn’t allow it, which is an additional confidence boost complimenting a victory.
Getting a victory is inherently a great feeling. It’s even nicer following such a drastic loss on NLL Faceoff Weekend.
“It’s a little bit of the monkey off your back. We got some new faces in that locker room; new offensive coach, some young guys playing. To be able to do that, everyone gets that first win feeling, it’s a really good start for us for the season.”Ben McIntosh; 12/17/2022
Along the way, Ben McIntosh was one of three Wings with a hat-trick. Joining him were Blaze Riorden and Joe Resetarits. It was the second hat trick in as many games for Riorden.
Next, the Philadelphia Wings visit the Las Vegas Desert Dogs on January 6th, 2023. The opening faceoff takes place at 10:30pm.
(Photo Credit/Alex McIntyre)