A season ago, the Philadelphia Wings were resilient on their way to a playoff berth. Paul Day made a trade for Sam LeClair and signed Kyle Jackson to complete the season.
Overtime heroics from Blaze Riorden propelled the Wings into the playoffs, writing another chapter about the budding rivalry versus the Georgia Swarm. Finding their groove in 2021-2022, the San Diego Seals eliminated Philadelphia from the playoffs in a tightly contested battle. That set the tone for 2022-2023.
“Our goal is to make it to the playoffs; it was our first opportunity to make the playoffs. [The] COVID year, we were in a playoff seed when the season ended, but in the playoffs. The next step is going into the deep playoffs this year and compete for a championship.”Paul Day; 1/12/2023
Back in the City of Brotherly Love, the Wings’ home opener takes place on January 14th, 2023. They start their homestand with a 2-1 record, keeping the chip squarely on their shoulder from a season ago.
Forced to figure it out away from their practice facilities, at the mercy of other franchises on the road, Philadelphia became road warriors.
“One of the big things is getting to the Skate Zone in Voorhees and being able to practice in our own facilities. When you’re on the road, you’re at the mercy of the other team; the facilities maybe aren’t as good. We control everything at home.”Paul Day; 1/6/2023
Evidently, the Wings are working well in opposing facilities. Back-to-back victories separated by twenty days show the players are working to keep the rust away. Philadelphia vastly improved and maintained their pace since getting zapped by the Halifax Thunderbirds, 18-8.
A ‘first-win feeling’ helped spread the chemistry throughout the lineup after the Wings edged the Swarm; 13-12. With the proverbial ‘monkey off the back,’ Philadelphia is playing winning lacrosse.
“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
A Need for Speed
On the roster, there is a faceoff master, scoring machines, and one of the steadiest goaltenders in the NLL. From the stripe, they possess the ball, work the pass, and mix in cutters with perimeter shooting. At least, that would be the prototype.
Halifax disrupted the game plan. They forced the Wings to beat them with speed. While those skill sets exist, Philadelphia focused on becoming a faster team in the offseason. The 2022-2023 NLL Faceoff Weekend showed the work was still in progress, setting a baseline of where improvements are required.
Speed and agility are the foundation of defensive positioning. It’s not completely surprising the Wings rank sixth in team defense.
“We built this team around the notion of ‘everybody be physical.’ Whether you’re an offensive guy or defensive guy, we like to play smack you in the mouth, hard lacrosse. Think of the Broad Street Bullies; that’s what Philadelphia’s known for. You want to play hard, and you want to play heavy. We’re built that way; Rambo, Blaze, Matisz, and Benny McIntosh, they’re big, strong guys.”Paul Day; 1/12/2023
Kyle Miller and PJ Ragone deserve a ton of credit for pushing the roster to maximize their top speed.
“You have some of September; a couple weeks to kind of get healthy; and all of October to train. The biggest thing is you need to get healthy. You don’t really have a lot of time to lift weights and all that. You need to get healthy, and I think the speed and agility training are a lot healthier for them than lifting weights.”Paul Day; 1/12/2023
Miller owns Bryn Mawr Sports Rehab and works with the United States Soccer Federation. Ragone oversees Inspira Health Fitness, notably working with Mike Trout. After three games, the injury report remains blank. Preventative treatment by Miller meets the strength and conditioning regime by Ragone to create a clean slate. In terms of health, it doesn’t get better.
2022-2023 Season Check-In
The goal remains to build upon the postseason berth from a season ago, but Philadelphia has a new energy. Stars like Anthony Joaquim, Brett Hickey, and Kevin Crowley are elsewhere.
Joe Resetarits (7G, 11A) signed a three-year deal with the Wings, bolstering the offense. The league-leading scorer from 2021-2022 makes the offense significantly dangerous. He and Ben McIntosh matched the Las Vegas Desert Dogs scoring production en route to a 14-9 win.
“We wanted a guy who could generate and initiate offense from the left side of the floor, but the right-handers. We were able to get Joe Resetarits, who led the league in goals last year. It was so important; we needed more goals; we needed more speed.”Paul Day; 1/12/2023
Speaking of McIntosh, he has a hat trick in his last two games, adding to his 14 points (8G, 6A).
Riorden (10G, 5A) has two hat tricks in the first three games, too. His accomplishment, though the same, is different because he tallied five against the Thunderbirds. When Philadelphia needs a scoring outburst to get out of a rut, Riorden is reliable. Away from the NLL, he trades in his attack stick for a goaltender web. He isn’t a jack of all trades; Riorden is an ace.
At the core are stellar goaltending and the personification of faceoff wizardry. Despite the start to 2022-2023 for Zach Higgins, he stood tall in the last two road victories, improving as the quarters dig deeper into regulation. He has Trevor Baptiste on his side, taking extra possessions via faceoff victories at a staggering rate. Baptiste and Riorden will represent Team USA at the World Lacrosse Men’s Championship beginning on June 21st, 2023. Matt Rambo also accepted the honor, making it three Wings flying high on Team USA.
“It’s important for us to get off to a good start in our home building. We’re here for four weeks. The important thing is we’re home; we’ll take it like every other week, but it’s great to be able to play against someone who was an assistant [Tracey Kelusky], and we were able to elevate him to become a head coach with another team and start a franchise from scratch.”Paul Day; 1/12/2023
Today is the day! Sitting at 2-1 in the upper echelon of the NLL, Philadelphia is ready for its 2022-2023 debut at the Wells Fargo Center. On ESPN+, you can watch the Wings battle Panther City tonight at 7pm.
(Photo Credit/Alex McIntyre)