Wings defeat Rock for the first time since 2018-2019

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Wings' Zach Higgins
Wings’ Zach Higgins

The Philadelphia Wings are flying high.

They defeated the Toronto Rock for the first time since returning to the NLL in 2018-2019. Paul Day has his club in a position to make a run toward a postseason berth, but there is still a lot of lacrosse left in 2022-2023.

Ben McIntosh, Blaze Riorden, and Zach Higgins are a few players who performed well. The defense ahead of Higgins kept a physical, stubborn style throughout the contest. Capping off a double-scheduled week fourteen in the NLL, the Wings reached a new level of confidence following one of the best franchise victories since returning to the league.

Philadelphia Wings vs. Toronto Rock

Alex Crepinsek and Sam LeClair would not be in the lineup for the Philadelphia Wings, out with lower-body injuries. In the 19-12 victory over the New York Riptide, they combined for two goals, ten ground balls recovered, and a defensive takeaway.

Matt Rambo and Riorden entered the game needing two more goals to tie the Wings’ franchise record set by Kevin Crowley. They both got onto the scoreboard in the first quarter. Philadelphia matched an early rush of momentum with the most defensively sound quarter of lacrosse they’ve displayed all season. Higgins blanked the Toronto Rock in the first quarter, 2-0.

Dan Craig put the Rock on the scoreboard for the first time in the second quarter, but Mitch Jones answered with a crucial powerplay goal. The momentum began to shift in favor of Toronto after back-to-back goals from Latrell Harris and Challen Rogers, but the Wings finished strong with a three-goal run from Jones, Joe Resetarits, and Trevor Baptiste. Baptiste seemed very surprised with how open he was at the crease versus Nick Rose before sneaking the ball past the goal line. Philadelphia did a great job of spreading the ball on offense; six players were responsible for the 7-4 lead at halftime (Rambo, Riorden, Jones, McIntosh, Resetarits, and Baptiste.)

Both defenses remained stellar in the third quarter after a needed halftime rest. Ben McIntosh represented the only scoring play for the Wings in the third. Corey Small matched the effort as the Rock began to pick up momentum. It was the first time in the game that Toronto didn’t get outscored in a quarter. McIntosh helped Philadelphia maintain their three-goal lead, 8-5, entering the fourth quarter.

This epic battle at the Wells Fargo Center came down to the wire. Kiel Matisz scored a filthy behind-the-back goal from the slot, but then the Rock went on a four-goal run. Craig completed his powerplay, Tom Schreiber found the scoreboard, and Small tied the game, 9-9, making McIntosh pay for his poor crosschecking penalty.

Riorden tied the Wings’ franchise lead for goals scored, diving through the crease to give a late advantage, 10-9. McIntosh secured the hat trick, providing a cushion, 11-9. Schreiber showed late life, putting Toronto within one goal of the lead, 11-10, but that resembled the final score. For the first time since rejoining the NLL, Philadelphia defeated the Rock.

Officially, Higgins made saved 55/65 shots on goal. The shot discrepancy was insane. Toronto had 65 shots on goal compared to 32 from the Wings.

A Statement Victory (+)

The identity of the Philadelphia Wings is that they can compete with anyone in the NLL. Ian Rubel, the defensive coordinator, said it best, and it was echoed through actions last night.

“It keeps building our belief in our team and the trust in the locker room. We’ve been talking about it since day one. This team is building trust every weekend and slowly working our way to that, building at the end of the season.”

Ian Rubel; 3/6/2023

A victory versus the Toronto Rock underscores the Wings as a rising team in the NLL.

Record Chasing (+)

Matt Rambo and Blaze Riorden are racing toward the franchise record in goals scored. Rambo remains one way from tying the record set by Crowley. Riorden tied Crowley, likely to break the milestone on March 11th, 2023 against the New York Riptide.

“Product of my teammates. I’ve played a lot of games, I love this team, I love this city, I love doing whatever it takes to get this result. I’m just proud to be a Philadelphia Wing.”

Blaze Riorden; 3/6/2023

Over the weekend, the Philadelphia Wings defeated the Riptide. Riorden finished with five points (2G, 3A) and Rambo tallied another five points (1G, 4A.)

A Playoff Push (+)

The victory versus the Toronto Rock is already sweet because it hasn’t happened since the Philadelphia Wings returned to the NLL in 2018-2019.

“There’s a lot of confidence in the room right now, and lacrosse is a confidence game. If you’re not going to have confidence while you’re playing, people are going to hold their sticks tighter, they’re not going to hit the open man, they’re not going to trust each other. We have a lot of trust, a lot of confidence, and we’re in a good spot where we are. We can’t be too happy with where we are; we got to stay humble. We’re just going to celebrate this win right now, one day at a time.”

Matt Rambo; 3/6/2023

A bonus, though the prime objective, is the Wings are officially in position for a playoff berth. Philadelphia jumped the Halifax Thunderbirds in the standings to take the final seed in the Eastern Conference for the time being. Ahead of them are the Rochester Knighthawks, the Rock, and the Buffalo Bandits.

(Photo Credit/Alex McIntyre Photos)