Wings, Philadelphia sad on ‘Emo Night’ after loss vs Halifax

Philadelphia Wings
Philadelphia Wings logo (Photo Credit/Alex McIntyre)
(Photo Credit/Alex McIntyre)

Over the weekend, the Philadelphia Wings and Halifax Thunderbirds battled at the Wells Fargo Center. This rematch had playoff implications and was the latest ‘must-win’ situation in the 2022-2023 NLL season.

A win would give Philadelphia the advantage, holding onto the final playoff position in the NLL Eastern Conference. A loss puts pressure on the team to meet the goal of back-to-back postseason berths. During the NLL Faceoff Weekend, the Thunderbirds defeated the Wings 18-8.

Philadelphia turned into a different team since that loss. They scored at a better rate, and they’ve improved in even-strength defense. Without Matt Rambo and Ryan Wagner, they were vulnerable. To come out with a victory meant a top-notch performance throughout each facet of lacrosse through each quarter.

Did the Wings get one back on Halifax?

Philadelphia Wings vs. Halifax Thunderbirds

The boards were in tune with a blackened aesthetic for ‘Emo Night’ at the Wells Fargo Center.

Trevor Baptiste had a tough time against Jake Withers. Baptiste dominated at the faceoff stripe throughout most of this season, but twice, Withers got the better of him. A rare sight at the faceoff stripe for the Philadelphia Wings, they finished 10/28.

Mitch Jones broke the ice, giving Philadelphia their only lead, 1-0. Eric Fannell tied the game, 1-1, before Ryan Benesch flipped the script for the Halifax Thunderbirds on the powerplay, 2-1. The following sequence took the wind from under the Wings:

Initially, the call was a no-goal. The sequence went to a review. Though Baptiste was slashed twice, including a headshot as the exclamation point, the ruling overturned to a good goal. Clarke Petterson finished the play, scoring on Zach Higgins at the top of the crease, 3-1. Philadelphia went on the powerplay due to the review, but it changed the ruling of an already established call on a scoring play.

“I’ve never seen that happen before. The original referee called it off; no-goal. I’m not sure I should even have to challenge to be honest with you. It was no-goal at the time; I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it get changed. They ended up with the ball because of a penalty. I think the league’s trying to say that the ref has to blow the whistle. Obviously, we need to change that if a goal results because of a penalty. It shouldn’t be a goal as far as I’m concerned. In any other league, I’ve never seen it happen.”

Paul Day; 3/25/2023

Fannell added another to extend the run to four goals for the Thunderbirds, who led 4-1 at the end of the first quarter.

Sam LeClair interrupted a four-goal run from Halifax, but Randy Staats began a three-goal scamper. Along with Staats, Ryan Terefenko scored his first before Fannell secured his first-half hat trick. Down, 7-2, Day saw enough from Higgins, pulling him for Angus Goodleaf.

Halifax threw their weight around in the first half, bodying the attacking Wings. Ben McIntosh stopped the bleeding with a goal on the crease, but Cody Jamieson pushed the Thunderbirds’ lead back to five, 8-3. Taite Cattoni scored before halftime, keeping Philadelphia within four; 8-4. Warren Hill was incredible between the pipes in the first half, stopping high-danger scoring chances that came at a premium.

Then, the inverse of the season-long narrative played out for the Wings. Typically, the third quarter isn’t the best for Philadelphia, but they battled back from a four-goal deficit. Goodleaf provided a great support system in relief of Higgins. McIntosh and Blaze Riorden traded goals to begin the third on a three-goal streak. Completing his hat trick, McIntosh cut the deficit to one, 8-7.

Halifax scored the necessary goal to keep the Wings far enough away from a tie game. Chris Boushy scored his first late in the third quarter, preventing Jones from tying the game; 9-8. Benesch added his second of the game before the end of the third, giving the Thunderbirds a two-goal lead, 10-8. Philadelphia had a chance to force late heroics.

Jones, Jamieson, and McIntosh alternated goals until the score was 11-10 in favor of Halifax. At the top of the fourth quarter, Jones completed his hat trick. The Wings had another load of high-danger scoring chances, but Hill remained strong in the crease. Austin Shanks, Dawson Theede, and Terefenko iced the game on a three-goal run, rewarding Hill for his continued effort. The Thunderbirds swept Philadelphia in 2022-2023 by a final of 14-10.

Possession (-)

Both these clubs were physical, and the Philadelphia Wings had to fight for every goal to compete with the Halifax Thunderbirds. The Wings were the more disciplined team, keeping out of the penalty box. On the floor, the Thunderbirds outshot, outhustled, and out-possessed the opposition.

At the faceoff stripe, Halifax conquered Baptiste. Withers and Terafenko neutralized one of the most critical players for Philadelphia.

Then, when a shot did go wide of Higgins or Goodleaf, the Wings weren’t there to stop the possession. Goaltending had to take on second and third chances. It was incredible that Philadelphia trailed 11-10 as late as the fourth quarter behind Jones, McIntosh, and Goodleaf in relief. Winning less than half of the faceoff battles and getting outhustled in the defensive zone showed the Thunderbirds matched up better during even-strength lacrosse.

Circling back to disciplined play, while the Wings did not serve as many penalty minutes, they couldn’t stop a single Halifax powerplay, finishing 0/2 on the penalty kill.

NLL Playoff Implications (-)

On the outside looking in, a victory versus the Halifax Thunderbirds would’ve paid great dividends for the Philadelphia Wings’ playoff hopes.

Only the top four teams in each conference make it to the postseason. The Thunderbirds (7-7) hold the tiebreaker over the Wings (6-8,) sweeping them this season.

Effectively, Philadelphia will have to run the table against competition that matches up well. Still ahead of the Wings are the Rochester Knighthawks (twice,) the Toronto Rock, and the Albany Fire Wolves. While aiming for these tough victories against familiar and formidable opponents, they’ll hope for a collapse by Halifax. Remaining on the Thunderbirds’ schedule are the Georgia Swarm (twice,) the Saskatchewan Rush, and the New York Riptide.

(Photo Credit/Alex McIntyre)