Philadelphia rookie Kevin Crowley
Powered by rookie sensation Kevin Crowley and goaltender Brandon Miller, the Philadelphia Wings got their first win of the season, 10-9 in overtime against the Washington Stealth on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
After the Wings gave up a 9-7 lead late in the fourth quarter, Crowley sliced into the middle and scored 5:06 into overtime.
“The ball was on the ground and we battled for the loose ball,” Crowley said. “We got it free and [Dan] Dawson pulled it down and their defenders collapsed onto the crease and left a lane for me to go to the goal and I buried it.”
The game-winner was the fifth goal of the night for the rookie, giving him 10 goals and six assists through his first two NLL games. Wings head coach Johnny Mouradian said early in the week that Crowley would help them in tight games.
He did exactly that on Saturday night.
“He is a big game player,” Mouradian said. “That’s why he is a No. 1 draft pick. He has been in a lot of really important games. He is a rookie in the NLL, but he is not a rookie in being a game-breaker, a game-changer. That is why we were so excited when we had a chance to get him.”
The other big story of the night was the brilliant play of Miller in net. The 2011 All-Star selection was pulled in a 22-12 loss in Week 2 to Rochester, but made up for it Saturday with 49 saves on 58 shots, including several highlight-reel stops.
“It was important to get a couple big saves early. You never like to have bad games but I wasn’t feeling it. I thought about it all week,” Miller said.
“Sometimes you just pick up the ball as soon it leaves the stick. Last week I think I was a little jumpy, watching the shot instead of reacting.”
Crowley said that Miller’s play really helped the team in more aspects of the game than just on defense.
“He stood on his head for us today,” Crowley said. “He saved us a bunch of times when they had open shots. You need that sometimes from your goalie to keep momentum. He had a great game.”
The Wings came out of the gate quick, presumably hoping to quickly erase the memory of last week’s ugly loss. Crowley netted three goals in the first quarter, and the Wings applied constant pressure to the Washington defense.
The second quarter was a different story. The Stealth peppered Miller with shot after shot. Miller was able to keep them off the scoreboard until the 4:10 mark when Jeff Zywicki scored on the power play. The goal was the first of five straight for the Stealth as they took a 5-3 lead halfway through the third frame.
But Philadelphia took over from there. Drew Westervelt scored three goals and Brendan Mundorf added two, all in the second half, to put the Wings back ahead. Washington managed to tie the game late in regulation, but the crowd went home happy courtesy of Crowley.
For the second straight week, Washington sputtered on offense. Cam Sedgwick and Matt Beers each netted a pair of goals for the Stealth, but head coach Art Webster said they need their top players to step up on offense.
“I am definitely concerned about the offense,” he said. “Rhys [Duch] had no goals and Lewis [Ratcliff] had only one. They are our playmakers and they need to work harder for us. We need them to fill the score sheet. You see Westervelt and Crowley scored multiple goals for Philly and that was the difference.”
Webster was also disappointed in the team’s performance with the man advantage. The Stealth went 2-for-8 on the power play and also gave up a big short-handed goal in the fourth quarter.
“We have to work on our power play. Late in the third quarter we had two power plays there and were up by two goals. If we cash in there, it pretty much sets the tone of the game,” Webster said.
The Stealth will look to rebound next week at home against Edmonton.
For the Wings, players and coach alike are starting to see things come together after entering the season with high expectations.
“We always say we have a big, strong, athletic lacrosse club,” Mouradian said. “But now it’s time to believe it, to execute it and to show it. I think we’re coming around to show what our identity is.”
After an offseason full of big-name acquisitions, Mundorf and Westerville are also two of the few impact players remaining from last year’s 5-11 team. Mundorf says the difference is obvious.
“The group of guys we have is totally different than last year,” he said. “We’re trying to block last year out. It’s a new group and we want to build as a unit, and get to know these guys even better and build as a team. We have the right guys here to do it.”
The Wings will try to keep it going Friday night when they travel to play the Buffalo Bandits.