It wasn't pretty, but it was necessary. The Philadelphia Wings (6-6), behind Jeff Ratcliffe's eight-goal performance, improved their chances of post-season play by knocking off the pesky and relentless Ottawa Rebel (2-10), 19-17, in front of 14,016 at First Union Center Saturday.
Ratcliffe, who was named the game's Most Valuable Player, scored four of his goals in the third quarter. His eight goals are the most goals scored in a game by a Wings player this season.
The Wings, who are currently eighth in the 13-team NLL, must improve to sixth place or higher to qualify for post-season play. The defending NLL Champion Wings have not missed the playoffs since the l991 season, the only time in their 16-year tenure. The Wings have four games remaining, including two home-and-home series with the division-leading Washington Power and the Toronto Rock.
"It wasn't the kind of game we're proud of, but we're sure happy to get out of this one with a win," said Wings Coach Adam Mueller. "Jeff had a great game and we hope that we can focus this week on a tough task at hand - qualifying for the playoffs. We have some tough games, but two of those will be in front of our fans, the best fans in the NLL."
The two teams clawed at each other back-and-forth exchanging leads throughout the game, but it was the Wings who held onto even their record to 6-6 with four contests remaining.
After allowing eight goals in the second quarter, the Wings offense exploded in the third quarter with eight goals of their own, including four from second-year player Ratcliffe, two from "Thrilllin'" Mark Millon and Kevin Finneran. The Wings went on top 15-12 to close out the third quarter.
The Wings took a 3-2 lead early in the second quarter, but watched their lead disappear as Ottawa's Mike Benedict and Andrew Guindon combined to score three unanswered goals and take a 4-3 lead. The two teams would trade leads twice more before Ottawa's Benedict, Marty O'Brien and Jamie Roy scored three unanswered goals in :39 to take an 8-6 lead at 10:08. The two teams combined for 13 goals in the second quarter (eight to Ottawa). The Rebel took a 9-7 lead into the halftime break.
Finneran, playing in his 133rd consecutive game, the longest streak in the history of indoor lacrosse, opened the scoring for Philadelphia early in the first quarter. Teammate Tom Marechek followed up with his first of the game, while Wings goalie Dallas Eliuk turned away 14 of the first 15 shots faced to close out the first quarter with Philadelphia on top, 2-1.
Ratcliffe led the Wings with eight goals. Five other players scored for Philadelphia, including Millon (four goals, four assists), Finneran (three goals, two assists), Tom Ryan (one goal, one assist), Peter Jacobs (one goal, one assist) and Marechek (two goals, six assists).
Mike Benedict led the Rebel with eight points (six goals, two assists).