The Philadelphia Wings (5-9) edged the Colorado Mammoth (5-9) by a score of 14-12 before a crowd of 16,322 at Pepsi Center on Saturday night. The game was tied nine separate times in the contest as the Wings pick up a major win in their push for a playoff berth.
Tracey Kelusky scored what proved to be the game-winning goal for Philadelphia with one minute remaining in regulation. Brodie Merrill led the team with seven points (1+6) while Garrett Thul led the scoring with three goals and one assist.
“We showed a lot of resilience all game,” Kelusky said. “It was one of those back-and-forth games that maybe was going to turn into the last shot. Oour backs were against the wall and we knew what it meant. So we ultimately went out and we were fortunate my shot dropped and we got that empty netter at the end.”
Coming in knowing Saturday’s game could prove pivotal for both teams down the stretch in terms of securing a playoff berth, Wings head coach Blane Harrison was exuberant after the game as his team pushed themselves ever closer against Toronto for the final spot in the East Division.
“It was two very good teams, I think records don’t really speak how good the personnel are on their respective teams,” he mentioned. “That particular team has some firepower…but both teams are desperate. Both teams are trying to make the postseason and I expected it to be kind of a heavyweight fight.”
John Grant Jr. led the Mammoth in points (2+7) and had a potential game-winning goal wiped away due to an illegal screen in the final minutes. Athan Iannucci highlighted the team in scoring with four goals, and Adam Jones registered five points (2+3) in his return to the team after missing five games due to injury.
He only wished his return could have brought better fortune for the home team, who dropped their second game in a row since the mid-season coaching change.
“It’s frustrating, I feel like we keep doing it time and time again,” Jones said. “We get in those lows that just seem to bite us. It’s the small mistakes…it’s not one person making five mistakes, it’s everybody making one.”
Colorado struggled out of the gate, but not as they have in recent outings. Rather than being down a handful of goals early on, the home team had multiple scores wiped off by crease violations in addition to turning the ball over on transition several times. Despite their mistakes, the Mammoth matched Philadelphia on the scoreboard through the half with Iannucci and Drew Westervelt tallying a pair of goals each.
Iannucci and Westervelt went back-to-back to complete their hat tricks, giving Colorado their first lead of the game. Philadelphia would counter and briefly re-gain the lead courtesy of a Pat Saunders power play goal, but moments later Adam
Jones responded with his first goal since returning from injury, making it 9-9 heading into the fourth.
Jones netted his second of the night moments into the final quarter, but a five goal fourth by the Wings helped set up the eventual tie-breaking goal by Kelusky, followed moments later by Joel White’s empty net goal to seal the deal.
Philadelphia led in shots on goal with 63 to Colorado’s 48. Harrison gave praise to the Mammoth defense for challenging his squad form the outside, and also gave praise to Dillon Ward, who finished with 47 saves.
“He’s a legit goalie," Harrison said. "He gave us some fits.”
Jones also gave credit to Ward and the defense, claiming the scoreboard would have showed something a lot worse if not for their resilience.
Colorado faces a tough schedule to wrap up the season in terms of clinching a post-season appearance. They will visit Edmonton next Saturday to face the undefeated Rush in the first of a home-and-home series. The Wings meanwhile will head home to host Calgary next Friday in hopes of continuing their late season winning streak.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Garrett Thul
2) John Grant, Jr.
3) Brodie Merrill