The Philadelphia Wings and the Rochester Knighthawks are used to winning? both franchises have won Championships and consider making the playoffs a standard part of their season. The Knighthawks have never missed the playoffs in seven NLL seasons. The Wings have only missed the playoffs once in their 15-year history.
The 2000-2001 NLL season is no exception. The teams finished the regular season with identical 10-4 records. The difference? the Wings swept the season series from the Knighthawks. Philadelphia pulled out a 17-16 victory on opening night in Rochester. On February 3rd, the teams played another tight game, a 16-14 Wings victory in Philadelphia. Despite the 0-2 record, the Knighthawks believe they can beat the Wings.
"Every time we play (the Wings) it's down to the wire," said Paul Day, head coach of the Rochester Knighthawks. "The teams are very evenly matched... I expect a similar type of game on Friday."
Rochester got off to a slow start with several tough matchups early in the season. After a 3-3 start, The K-Hawks won seven of their last eight games to finish at 10-4.
"We always seem to save our best for last," said Day. "To be succesful, we will need to have at least eight of our guys involved in the scoring. On defense, we have to find a way to contain Jake Bergey and Tom Marechek."
The Knighthawks are led on offense by John Grant (42 Goals 48 Assists=90 Points), Cory Bomberry (24 42=66), Curt Malawsky (25 34=59) and Duane Jacobs (33 24=57). The Knighthawks defense is anchored by Regy Thorpe (80 loose balls) and Mike Hasen (50 loose balls). Brad MacArthur has been a solid two-way player (18 Points, 148 Faceoff Wins, 61 Loose Balls). The Knighthawks have two solid goalkeepers in Pat O'Toole (8-2, 10.58 GAA) and Steve Dietrich (2-2, 12.73 GAA).
The Philadelphia Wings are also a powerful offensive team, with six players scoring at least 45 points this season. The Wings are led on offense by Jake Bergey (43 Goals 43 Assists=86 Points) and Tom Marechek (48 31=79). On defense, the Wings are led by team captain Dave Stilley (56 loose balls), Tom Slate (61 loose balls) and Peter Jacobs. Jacobs is one of the NLL's best faceoff men; he won 123 of 200 faceoffs in the regular season. In goal, the Wings rely upon the rock of their franchise; Dallas Eliuk. Eliuk posted another sensational season, posting a 9-3 record and 11.95 GAA.
Despite all of the offensive firepower on both sides, Wings Head Coach Tony Resch expects a different type of game. "I think you'll see a very physical, defensive game. Defense and goaltending will be the key," said Resch.
What's next for the winner of the Philadelphia/Rochester game: If Toronto beats Washington in the other semi-final game, the winner here will travel to Toronto for the Championship game next weekend. If Washington defeats Toronto, the winner here will host Washington for the Championship Game next weekend.
**Comcast Sports Net will show the game on tape delay, Saturday, April 21st, 4pm Eastern Time.