The Philadelphia Wings (3-4) overcame a slow start and goalie Brandon Miller made two crucial late saves in their 10-8 comeback road win over the Rochester Knighthawks (3-5) at The Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night. The Wings win snaps a 10-game losing streak to the Knighthawks dating back to 2009.
Tied at eight in the fourth quarter, Drew Westervelt scored Philadelphia’s first power play goal to give the Wings a 9-8 advantage before Brodie Merrill cashed in an empty-netter with 0.1 seconds remaining to seal the deal.
“[It feels good], especially after the last one, losing 20-10, and last year in the playoffs they beat us by one,” said Philadelphia’s GM and head coach Johnny Mouradian. “We have to win those types of games, especially in our own division. We’re very proud of our guys. We outworked them.”
Goaltender Brandon Miller made 39 saves on 47 shots, holding to Knighthawks to the fewest goals in a game against the Wings since Rochester scored seven in a loss to Philadelphia on April 1, 2006.
“This league is all about goaltending,” Mouradian said. “Miller played a game and gave us an opportunity to score goals.”
The Wings recovered from deficits of four at the end of the first quarter and two at the end of the first half. After being shut out 4-0 in the first 15 minutes, Philadelphia opened the second quarter with four unanswered of their own. Former Knighthawks transition player Jordan Hall began the streak with an unassisted goal at 4:12.
“We had some bye weeks plus some back-to-backs,” Hall said. “It just felt like forever since we had a win. This was the last team we played. I know they had a game in between this, but we still had a 20-10 loss fresh in our mouths. We played with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder.”
The win gives Philadelphia (3-3) sole possession of third place in the East Division, two games out of first place. Rochester (3-5) drops to three games behind Toronto, and are now 1-4 at home at the halfway point of the season.
“We came out with a real good start and guys were doing what we need them to do,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “Then we got away from it.”
In back-to-back games on Feb. 8 and 9, the Knighthawks earned decisive wins over Buffalo and Philadelphia. However, in the two weeks since, they have dropped both rematches.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow, this one especially since we had this lesson last week where Buffalo came into our barn and took it to us,” Hasen said. “We should have learned from that lesson and been a lot more prepared and more willing to battle for 60 minutes instead of taking shifts off and periods off.”
With a 6-4 lead 5:33 into the third, Cody Jamieson and Merrill each took a 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, while Johnny Powless and Mike Manley earned five minutes for fighting. Without those two players on the floor for Rochester, the Wings completed their second four-goal run. Kevin Buchanan scored consecutive goals, the first giving Philadelphia their first lead at 7-6 midway through the third, while Rochester was held scoreless in the frame.
“We’re only getting two goals in the second half, but we were missing two of our best players in Cody Jamieson and Johnny Powless for 15 minutes there,” said Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc. “That really kills us.”
Rochester was able to recover and tie the game again at eight early in the fourth. Casey Powell scored unassisted on a behind-the-back shot while being covered one-on-one by Hall before Powless scored the tying goal 53 seconds later.
Down 9-8 with under a minute to play, the Knighthawks had a chance to tie the game but Miller made the save. After a Philadelphia timeout and save by Knighthawks netminder Matt Vinc, Miller made another stop with 20 seconds left with the entire crowd on their feet. The Wings played “keep-away” until Merrill scored on an empty net with less than one second left.
Both goalies had strong games as Miller finished with 39 saves on 47 shots while Vinc made 44 stops on 54 shots in the losing effort.
Heading into Sunday’s games, Vinc ranks first in the league in goals against average (9.97), saves (344) and save percentage (.813).
“[Vinc] is giving us games to win and we just haven’t had a chance to have his back,” said Knighthawks forward Dan Dawson. “I think our execution offensively, we let our team down.”
The Wings were led offensively by Kevin Crowley’s five points (2+3) in addition to four points from Buchanan (2+2) and Westervelt (2+2). Powell (3+1) led all scorers with a hat trick, while Jamieson added four points (1+3).
Philadelphia will complete their back-to-back weekend tomorrow as they host the Colorado Mammoth on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET at Wells Fargo Center. The Knighthawks travel to Colorado on Saturday, March 2 to face the Mammoth at 9 p.m. ET.