Keeping themselves in playoff contention, the Philadephia Wings (4-9) snapped a six-game losing streak by holding on for a 14-13 win against the Toronto Rock (5-8) on their home turf at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.
"We had this game circled for awhile," Wings head coach Blane Harrison said. “We were looking at the horizon and telling ourselves it's still all ahead of us. One game doesn’t turn it around, but it felt good to get that monkey off our back."
The perseverance of the Wings showed right from the starting whistle as their aggressive defense was able to transition quickly for scoring opportunities on the forecheck, yielding five total goals in the first quarter.
The Wings scored 11 first-half goals, the most by the team in over a decade, dating back to March 8, 2003.
Just minutes into the third, forward Kevin Crowley set the tone of his phenomenal gameplay with a rocket into the net of Toronto, for the first goal of the night. However, the Rock answered back quickly with a point from forward Garrett Billings.
But rookie Pat Saunders fight his way into Toronto’s defensive zone on a breakaway behind-the-back pass from Ryan Ward and was able to fake out Rock goalie Nick Rose to make it 2-1.
Forward Rob Hellyer and defenseman Sandy Chapman scored a goal a piece for Toronto in the first. The Wings looked promising early in the first with Crowley scoring just seconds into a Philly power play. Kyle Buchanan also contributed a goal and an assist during the quarter.
“We took a pretty big spanking up in Toronto there and we wanted to move past it,” Buchanan said. “But we didn’t want to forget it. It was a big win and it was a close battle and it feels good when you’re that close and you come out on the good side of things.”
However, the second quarter slump of the Wings struck again, allowing the Rock to take the lead with four consecutive goals with the first from Garrett Billings who also assisted all three of the following goals. This included an incredible behind-the-back pass to Scott Johnston for a goal and assists to Colin Doyle, who scored on the power play, alongside Josh Sanderson who put another up on the board.
With the Wings trailing 7-5 after letting up four opposing goals, it looked as if they would continue their pattern of losing games in the second quarter, however Crowley decided to put his team back in the game.
Proving his presence on the field, Crowley continuously found his way to the net for the Wings, scoring a hat trick to spur the Wings scoring streak. It was Buchanan who scored just seconds later of an assist from Crowley— marking his 100th career regular season assist.
“This is the Kevin Crowley we’ve been waiting for all year obviously,” Harrison said. “He’s a very talented player and you think about it, he’s had those looks all year and tonight was a game it all came together for him. And we’re very fortunate and very happy that he was able to break out.”
That was followed by a goal from forward Ryan Ward to take back the lead in their typically dreaded second quarter.
This three-goal streak occurred in a 48-second span— the quickest for Philly since they scored three goals in 43 seconds on March 28, 2009 (M. Thompson, Wailes & Westervelt).
Toronto didn’t let go of their lead that easily however, with Hellyer tying it up back, only to be followed by a Wings goal from forward Tracey Kelusky with assist from forward Garrett Thul, who also put a goal on the board for the Wings in the second.
But it was Crowley back out with a bang, striking a long-shot into the net of Rose for his fourth goal, assisting the Wings in finishing off the quarter with a three goal lead of 11-8.
Billings came out early in the third to score a hat trick for Toronto with an assist from defender Patrick Merrill but Crowley fought back later for the Wings with his fifth goal of the game, beating out Toronto’s defense for a snipe into the net of Rose.
The third quarter demonstrated the equal playing level of both teams, ending the quarter with a tie of 12-12, with Toronto’s Greer tying it back up.
Wings goalie Evan Kirk played a strong game, a nice comeback after their previous 20-10 loss against Toronto earlier in the season.
“It’s almost like a chess match,” Kirk said. “I kind of picked up on where they were shooting late in the game. You kind of pick up on that sometimes and sometimes you don’t but I was seeing the ball well.”
With the fourth quarter anyone’s game, veteran Kelusky took advantage of a power play, with quick shot despite being blocked by the Rock defense.
With a little over nine minutes left in the game, Crowley won a footrace against defender Rob Marshall to sneak in his sixth goal, a new career-best with his first-ever "sock trick", giving Philly a two-goal lead in the fourth.
Toronto, however, closed the gap with a goal from Sanderson, making it an exciting one-game-goal with less than six minutes to go.
As the Rock desperately tried to pull out another goal, Evan Kirk made the crowd roar with impressive save and after save, giving Crowley and the Wings more hope for a potential playoff spot.
“(That was) intense,” Kirk said of the final minute. “Everyone was probably thinking, that’s on you right there. That’s pressure but it felt good to get that save and then our 'D' did a great job blocking a couple of shots so that helped.”
But the win has kept Philly alive for another week. And for now, the team will celebrate the much-awaited win.
“To end on that and with the crowd all standing up, it’s a pretty cool feeling,” Buchanan said. "We want get a couple more of those throughout the year here.”
Garrett Billings led all scorers with three goals and seven assists for a 10-point performance as he continues to lead the NLL in scoring with 92 points in 13 games. The road loss drops the Rock’s record to 1-6 away from Air Canada Centre.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Kevin Crowley
2) Kyle Buchanan
3) Garrett Billings