The Philadelphia Wings (7-8) clinched a playoff berth with a 10-9 overtime home win over the Toronto Rock (10-6) on Saturday. (Photo: Todd Bauders)
Jordan Hall scored a diving goal 1:01 into overtime as the Philadelphia Wings (7-8) clinched a playoff berth and put the top overall seed hopes on hold for the Toronto Rock (10-6) with a 10-9 home win at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday evening.
“I’ve never scored a bigger goal," Hall said. "Toronto’s the number one team and we knocked them off. It feels great. Our offense wasn’t scoring enough goals but we’re starting to click. We’ve turned it around."
Rock forward Josh Sanderson opened the scoring 6:19 into the game and scored again less than six minutes later for the early 2-0 lead before Kevin Buchanan responded for the Wings with 1:59 left in the first quarter.
Once Philadelphia quickly tied it in the second quarter, Toronto answered twice to lead 4-2 with 10:53 left in the first half. But the Wings tied the game at 4-4 with two goals in the final five minutes of the half.
The netminders continued their strong play as both teams struggled offensively in the third quarter by scoring just one goal each with the game eventually tied 5-5 after 45 minutes of play.
After the teams each scored twice early in the fourth quarter, Toronto defenseman Damon Edwards scored his first goal of the season to break the 7-7 tie with 8:12 left. Philadelphia made their push by tallying two goals in the next three minutes to regain the lead at 9-8.
Trying to hold onto the one-goal lead late, the Wings were assessed a too many men penalty with 1:12 left in the fourth quarter, resulting in an automatic penalty shot by rule, which Rock forward Kasey Beirnes converted to tie the game at 9-9.
After calling timeout with 16 second left in regulation, Philadelphia pulled the goalie for the extra attacker but could not convert and the game entered sudden death overtime.
After the Rock won the faceoff but failed to get a shot off after an illegal screen, Hall scored on his team's first possession with an in-tight dodge and crease dive to punch Philadelphia’s ticket to the postseason.
"This is what we play for," said Wings goalie Brandon Miller. "I’m getting old enough now that I’ve got to get one of those rings. It’s what we’re after, it’s why we play. First step in getting in the playoffs, and that’s why this feels great.”
The Rock have a bye in Week #16 and will host a first-round home playoff game at Air Canada Centre on Sunday, April 28 at 3 p.m. ET with their opponent yet to be determined. Toronto can still clinch the top overall seed depending on game results from this weekend and next.
Miller finished with 48 saves on 57 shots and made his 4,000th career NLL save with a stop early in the first quarter.
“I didn’t even realize [the milestone] until just now," Miller said. "I guess it means I’m old. It’s a league I dreamed about playing in when I was a kid. I fell in love with the game, I used to go to all the games in Buffalo, and that’s where I fell in love with the Philly Wings. To do it as a Wing was my childhood dream and was pretty special.”
After missing most of the season due to injury, Wings forward Brendan Mundorf posted a game-high six points (2+4), Buchanan had four points (2+2) while Rabil (1+2) and captain Brodie Merrill (0+3), who had a game-high 13 loose balls, both had three points in the win.
“We’ve had two big emotional wins in a row – we always feel good about playing against Toronto," said Wings general manager and head coach Johnny Mouradian. "We both run the floor very well. I thought we did a really good job of trying to manage their transition, Miller made some key saves going down the stretch. Our offense was moving the ball really well and opening a lot of space. We had some really good, quality shots.
"Our players are taking ownership of the results, and there’s no shortage of effort on this lacrosse club. They work hard and are committed to each other. You have to like where we are right now.”
Toronto's Garrett Billings, the NLL's leading scorer in 2013, was held without a goal despite taking 13 shots but did manage to break the 100-point plateau for the second-straight season with two assists, finishing the regular season with 100 points (30+70).
Sanderson finished the game with a hat trick, Beirnes (2+1) and captain Colin Doyle (1+2) both recorded three points and Jesse Gamble had a team-high 11 loose balls for Toronto. Nick Rose made 38 saves on 48 shots in the losing effort. Rock defenseman Sandy Chapman extended his ironman streak to 100 games, becoming just the fifth current NLL player with an active games played streak of 100 games or more.
The game was televised live on CBS Sports Network with NLL coverage continuing on the channel next weekend for the regular season finale between the Buffalo Bandits and Rochester Knighthawks. The broadcast schedule then includes select playoff games and the 2013 NLL Championship Game.
Dave Walls, Wings play-by-play announcer and beat writer for NLL.com, contributed to this report.