The Philadelphia Wings’ remaining schedule is tough to survive, and the team knew that heading into this weekend. Two weeks removed from their recent victory to stay in the NLL postseason hunt, the Wings were off the high of a 14-13 overtime thriller at the Wells Fargo Center.
Welcoming the Wings, the Toronto Rock hosted them for the first time in three games during the 2022-2023 season.
This season, the series was split, 1-1, until Saturday night. On the floor, the Wings competed against a team overwhelmingly successful versus them. In the NLL standings, the Wings were still battling the Halifax Thunderbirds for the last postseason spot in the NLL Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia Wings at Toronto Rock
Dan Dawson got the Toronto Rock rolling in the first quarter, beginning with back-to-back goals nearby the crease. Eric Shewell reacted late to Dawson cutting on the first goal, then Dawson performed a swim over Shewell, closing in on Zach Higgins. Those ambush tactics put the Rock up, 2-0.
Then, with all the great things Dawson did to begin the game, Mitch Jones capitalized on a mistake. The Philadelphia Wings went on the powerplay with Dawson serving for cross-checking. Jones scored a powerplay goal from the point, cutting the deficit in half with the man advantage.
After cutting the lead in half, Jones was stripped of the ball by Billy Hostrawser. Hostrawser ran the floor after scooping the loose ball, but Higgins made the save on a breakaway. On the next Wings possession, Taite Cattoni shot from the point-perimeter, tying the game, 2-2.
Tom Schreiber was alone on the left wing, waiting for an easy pass by Dan Craig, his second assist of the first quarter. He escaped the defensive reach, lining his matchup with Higgins exclusively for a 3-2 lead.
Before the end of the first quarter, Jones tied the game. He dangled the stick while battling Brandon Slade, making an advanced goal seem simple. After one, the Wings and Rock deadlocked, 3-3.
Slade scored to begin the second quarter when Liam Byrnes got caught in a pick, 4-3. Next, Craig beat Byrnes down the right wing, crease diving for the 5-3 lead. Then, Nick Rose notched the assist as Phil Mazzuca beat Higgins high for a three-goal run, scoring on a breakaway, 6-3.
Corey Small slowly transitioned to the bench, which allowed the Wings to break up the scoring rush. Kiel Matisz lowered a shoulder, scoring in close on Rose, 6-4.
Then, Challen Rogers scored from the point, 7-4. The Wings couldn’t cut into the deficit. They briefly stopped the bleeding. The Rock, on the powerplay, worked a passing cycle around to Dawson for the hat trick, 8-4. A delay of game penalty resulted in a four-goal deficit at halftime.
Jones completed his hat trick bid to begin the second half. He set up for the pass on the crease, dunking on Rose, 8-5.
Small remained in the game for the Rock, extending the lead to 9-5. Zach Manns found Small with a quick dish but took a hit from Ian Llord.
Before the end of the third quarter, Jones secured his fourth goal. His bouncing shot from the point beat Rose; 9-6. Jones was the only offensive production from the Wings in the second half.
In the fourth quarter, Schreiber completed his hat trick. He sniped the far post on Higgins with a pick set on Matisz, 10-6. Then, he scored his third on a rocket from the point perimeter, 11-6.
One final beat from Jones secured his fifth goal on the powerplay, with Adam Jay in the box for tripping, 11-7. Slade finished the Wings with a final dagger, identical to the goal he scored earlier; 12-7.
Playoff Window Closing (-)
Before the loss, the Halifax Thunderbirds owned the tiebreaker over the Philadelphia Wings with an identical record.
Now, the hole is a bit deeper for the Wings. They’re a game behind the Thunderbirds and the Georgia Swarm.
“We got two games. We’ve got to look forward to Albany. Our battle in the second half was better. Some unfortunate bounces; we thought the Dawson goal was in the crease, similar to the one that got called back on Blaze in Rochester. It was pretty frustrating. Good battle in the second half, [but] offensively we need more guys chipping in.”Paul Day; 4/15/2023
The Wings are in a position where they must win the rest of their road games to have a chance at lucking into the postseason. They’ll visit the Albany Firewolves this Sunday. The season finale is on the road against the Rochester Knighthawks.
Spread the Offense (-)
Jones is a leader on the Philadelphia Wings; a superstar. He accounted for five goals against the Toronto Rock; the best team in the NLL. It isn’t the healthiest thing for the Wings on offense, however.
“We need six to eight guys on the score sheet scoring. That’s the difference from when we’re successful; everybody’s chipping in. Guys had chances, and they got to make sure they’re burying the opportunity. If you’re not scoring, you’re getting other people open. You can always take a different route offensively.”Paul Day; 4/15/2023
Accounting for two powerplay goals is a bit different. Jones is the driver with the extra man advantage, going 2/4 against the Rock.
There needs to be a scoring presence from Blaze Riorden, Joe Resetarits, and Ben McIntosh, with more cutting into the slot instead of being forced to shoot from the perimeter.
(Photo Credit/Alex McIntyre)