After honoring one of the best players in franchise history with the retirement of Jake Bergey’s number 66, the Philadelphia Wings (3-5) couldn't stop the undefeated Edmonton Rush (6-0) with an 8-6 home loss at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.
Edmonton set a team record by earning their sixth-straight win while Philadelphia dropped their second game in as many nights following Friday's road loss to Toronto.
“It was a rough weekend,” Wings head coach Blane Harrison said. “Obviously last night we weren’t very happy with how we played. We didn’t compete very well in Toronto and we’re quite embarrassed with ourselves. The team challenged themselves tonight. They put up a better effort against the number one team in the league and I thought we did pretty well all things considered.
"We’re a banged up team right now. We’re missing Jordan Hall, which was a big hole all weekend in terms of the offense. It forced some of our younger guys into rolls they aren’t comfortable with and we were a little challenged by it.”
Starting off, it was the Rush who set the early tone of the game with two quick goals from captain defender Chris Corbeil and transition player Jeremy Thompson, both beating Wings goaltender Evan Kirk
In the midst of aggression and tough battling, Edmonton acquired two penalties— defender Kyle Rubisch with checking from behind and defender John Lintz for holding— as they crowded Wings forward Tracey Kelusky. This left a 5- on- 3 power play for the Wings, with Kelusky able to capitalize for the first Philly goal of the night.
However, the Wings momentum didn’t last long as the Rush demonstrated why they’re currently undefeated in the league, with powerful back-to-back goals by forward Riley Loewen— the first being a power play goal— to end the first quarter with Philly trailing 1-4.
As Harrison described his team having “probably the worst game” against Toronto last night, he did see some improvement in the game play against the number one Edmonton Rush.
“We came back tonight and held a very strong team to under nine (goals) which— you would think you’d win— but again the offense is not clicking right now. We are kind of banged up a little bit, we’re missing guys and it showed,” Harrison said.
The second quarter continued with the pattern of a lackluster offense for the Wings as Edmonton Rush forward Curtis Knight scored the fifth Rush goal of the night, assisted by Loewen. A battle of the two teams’ defense continued on throughout the majority of the second until Rush forward Robert Church put another point up on the scoreboard for Edmonton, leaving Kirk without much chance of a save.
With the Wings back on the power play, they were able to use the advantage for a snipe into the net by Kyle Sweeney to end the second quarter trailing by three.
The third quarter gave the Wings an early advantage with a penalty for Edmonton, allowing forward Kevin Crowley to power the ball into the Rush net to make it 6-3 in favor of the Rush, with Philly still not having scored during even play for more than half of the game.
“We think Kevin can give us a little more,” Harrison said. “He is the number one guy on the right side.
Jordan was not available this weekend—a lot of pressure goes on him (Crowley)— so he was getting some nice shots—he needs to bear a little bit more—but he is starting to get on track and this is going to be a big help, particularly when Jordan gets back and we get healthy again.”
The Wings seemed to pick up more energy in the third, however still were only able to pick up one goal during the period, ending it down by three goals.
Philly looked to continue their rising level of momentum early in the fourth quarter with a goal by forward Pat Saunders a little over a minute into the quarter, marking the Wings first even play goal of the game. But the Rush quickly shutdown Philly’s momentum with a defensive letdown that allowed Knight to dominate Wings transition player Joel White for a shot to the top right pocket of Kirk’s net, giving the Edmonton a three goal lead.
With a little under six minutes left in the game, Church doubled the Rush score on Philly, beating defender Chad Weidmaier for a beautiful diving goal to top right corner of the Wings net, making it 8-4 with Edmonton outshooting the Wings 47-34.
However, with a little over three minutes to go, Crowley finished on a perfect setup from forward Ryan Ward giving Philly their fifth goal of the night, followed only minutes later by a power shot from Ward, cutting the Rush lead to 8-6, giving the Wings a chance an exciting chance to come back in the last few minutes.
However, Philly got into their scoring zone too late into the game as time was not on their side, giving Edmonton the 8-6 win—continuing their undefeated season—as the Wings just couldn’t seem to capitalize on their breakaway opportunities and get one past the stellar goaltending of Edmonton’s Aaron Bold.
Wings assistant captain Brett Manney still finds positives in the team despite two nights of tough consecutive losses.
“We kind of pulled together as a team and we knew it was a team effort,” Manney said. “We just decided that for the defense and the offense, everyone’s got to chip in and the biggest word we used was accountability. Guys held themselves accountable for what they did. That’s kind of how we regrouped and we believe there is a great unity and bond within our team and trust in each other to do your job, but the chips fall as they may— that was the biggest thing coming back from a losing streak.”
As the Wings look forward in their season, perhaps we will see recently re-signed goaltender Brandon Miller back in the net this season.
“Brandon is a great guy,” Manney said. “He is a leader and a very good friend and when you combine that and the way Evan Kirk’s been playing, it gives us that stability and you look at teams that have made it to championship games and have won the whole thing in this league, to have those two guys back there with Evan and Brandon, certainly is something special. You’re going to need that.
"There’s some nights where some guys are just not feeling it and you need the confidence in the goalie that is going in after them and having those two guys back there, you have all the confidence in the world playing after them.”
Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan coached his 150th career game in the win, becoming just the fifth coach in league history to reach the milestone.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Aaron Bold
2) Riley Loewen
3) Curtis Knight