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Photo: Graig Abel

Wings shock Rock with fourth-quarter rally

01/19/2013, 9:00pm EST
By Justin Millerson, Rock beat writer for NLL.com

Westervelt's goal with 10.9 left gives Philly an 8-7 win over Toronto

The Philadelphia Wings used a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat the Toronto Rock with an 8-7 road win at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.(Photo: Graig Abel)

Drew Westervelt scored the game-winning goal with 10.9 seconds left as the Philadelphia Wings (2-0) stayed unbeaten with an 8-7 comeback road win over the Toronto Rock (2-1) in their 2013 National Lacrosse League home opener before a crowd of 11,703 at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.

Two goaltenders, Toronto's Nick Rose and Philadelphia's Brandon Miller, stole the show by allowing just 15 combined goals on 116 total shots in the gritty matchup between the division rivals.

“Rose has been unbelievable for us,” said Toronto Rock head coach Troy Cordingley. “I have no complaints there. He’s been our most outstanding player so far.”

The Rock carried what seemed to be a secure 7-4 lead midway into the fourth quarter, but a fury of offense from the Wings in the final minutes lifted Philadelphia to their first and only lead of the game.

In a span of 9:02, Joel White, Kevin Ross, Kevin Crowley and Drew Westervelt each scored in what was an otherwise difficult task before that stretch. Westervelt’s behind-the-net tally, the knockout blow, came with 10.9 seconds left in the game.

“We just didn’t finish," Rose said. "We outplayed them for 45 minutes and had a breakdown in the fourth. That’s how easy it is to hand over a win in this league."

Toronto’s Josh Sanderson opened the scoring almost three minutes into the game and teammate Stephan Leblanc scored with less than 30 seconds left for the only two goals of the first quarter.

Wings forward Kevin Crowley got his team on the board with a power play goal with 10:40 left in the second quarter before the Rock’s Patrick Merrill made it 3-1 with 2:29 left in the low-scoring first half.

“At halftime it was 3-1 and I think we were a little nervous,” said Philadelphia Wings head coach Johnny Mouradian. "Our defense gave us a chance to claw back into the offensive end."

Goals by Philadelphia’s Brodie Merrill and Drew Westervelt in the first 3:09 of the second half tied the game at 3-3, but Kasey Beirnes and Garrett Billings answered for Toronto to pull ahead 5-3 at the end of the third quarter.

Crowley cashed in again for the Wings on the man advantage less than a minute into the fourth quarter, but Rock captain Colin Doyle responded with two goals to give the Rock a 7-4 lead midway through the final frame.

“When we got down 7-4, it would have been easy to give up," said Miller, who finished the game with 53 saves and an impressive .883 save percentage. "But the offense finally came to life. Sometimes you get into a groove, and in the last two games, I’ve seen the ball really well."

Wings transition player Joel White, acquired from Rochester during the offseason, scored his first career NLL goal before fellow newcomer Kevin Ross, traded to Philadelphia from Minnesota over the summer, scored 30 seconds later to make it 7-6 with 5:28 remaining.

Crowley tied the game at 7-7 by scoring his third of the night with 2:14 left before Westervelt netted the winner with less than 11 seconds left, capping off a four-goal fourth quarter scoring run for Philadelphia.

Doyle recorded (2+2) and Billings (1+3) both finished with four points for the Rock, while Crowley registered four points (3+1) and Paul Rabil notched three points (0+3) to lead the Wings in scoring.

Rose, the NLL’s Defensive Player of the Week for Week #2, made 19 saves on 20 first-half shots while Wings counterpart Brandon Miller made 29 saves on 32 shots in the first half. Rose finished the game with another stellar night on the stat sheet, as the 24-year-old had 48 saves and an .857 save percentage.

Much has been said about Philadelphia’s American-heavy roster leading up to the season. The so-called “American Style” – a field lacrosse type of play emphasizing one-on-one matchups on both sides of the ball – was on display on Saturday night.

“For a couple [players], this was their second indoor game [ever],” Mouradian said. “It’s no secret that we’ve had this player [recruitment] plan where we're going to look after getting the best U.S. ball players we can."

The Rock will look to get their first home win next Friday when they host the Minnesota Swarm at Air Canada Centre. The Wings will travel to Buffalo on Saturday to play the Bandits for the second time this season.

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