In a battle between two teams looking to change their season’s narrative, the Philadelphia Wings made a statement tonight, knocking off the Rochester Knighthawks 12–4 after a chippy game in the City of Brotherly Love.
This game had a lot of meaning for both the Philadelphia Wings and the Rochester Knighthawks. After losing in overtime only 24 hours ago, the Wings were looking to right the ship and add another game to their win column. The Knighthawks, on the other hand, were looking to build momentum in their first season following a big first win of the season the night before.
In the sport of lacrosse there can only be one winner, however, and the Philadelphia Wings made sure that was going to be them from the opening whistle. The opening faceoff of the game was won by the dominant Trevor Baptiste, and after 10 minutes of tough defense, Baptiste picked up a loose ball and ran the floor to open the scoring for the evening. That would be the only goal for either team scored in the first 15 minutes of the game.
Wings goaltender Zach Higgins made sure the Knighthawks were not going to gain any momentum against his team, holding them scoreless in the opening quarter. At the end of the 1st, players from each team exchanged a little more than words, setting the tone for the rest of the game that neither team would back down from a fight.
Wings head coach Paul Day said, “We want to run the field tonight. We have to play faster and we have to attack faster.” Going into the 2nd quarter the Wings did just that.
Opening the 2nd quarter of play, the Knighthawks received a glimmer of hope as Holden Cattoni scored on a Power Play to even the game at 1, but Kiel Matisz took his coach’s advice and played fast, running end to end to reclaim the lead and open the floodgates for Philly. A few minutes later as a result of phenomenal ball movement Kevin Crowley snuck one past Steve Fryer.
Rochester went on the Power Play again after an illegal body check by Trevor Baptiste, and the veteran Shawn Evans scored only 5 second into the opportunity to bring the game within 1, but that would be the closest the Knighthawks would come to evening the score.
More excellent ball movement by the Wings offense allowed Brett Hickey to score, and then a few seconds later a Power Play chance enabled Cory Vitarelli to join the scoring, stretching the Wings lead to 3. Sloppy defense by Rochester led to another Power Play opportunity for Philly, and Vitarelli added another before the half ended.
“We’re getting some nice passes through,” said the veteran Vitarelli at the end of the first half. “We are just trying to be sharp and it’s working for us. It’s certainly a redemption game after last night and every game is so important, but there is a lot of game left to play.”
There certainly was a lot of game left to play, and after a tough game the night before, the Knighthawks showed their fatigue. Some early saves from Philly goalie Zach Higgins allowed for strong transition play, and Matisz scored again on a pass from Baptiste growing the lead to 7–2 early into the 3rd.
Zach Higgins remained a brick wall between the pipes for the Wings, denying every shot the Knighthawks threw at him and providing his team with opportunities to score on the other end of the field.
The theme of ball movement on the offensive end of the field for the Wings kept coming back and Josh Currier scored on a pass from Matt Rambo. Rochester answered with a nice transition goal by Dan Lintner, but after review it became clear that he had entered the crease, so the only offensive success in the 3rd for Rochester was revoked.
As the 3rd quarter wound down some more words and extracurriculars were exchanged between the Wings and the Knighthawks, but the refs let cooler heads prevail, and the Wings carried an 8–2 lead into the final period of play.
As the 4th quarter started, it became clear the Knighthawks were still trying to prove they are a tough team to beat, and they were playing hard. Perhaps a little too hard, as a few penalties were called, and the Wings were awarded two consecutive penalty shots early in the 4th. Kevin Crowley slipped his attempt past Fryer, while Matisz couldn’t find the back of the net, giving the Wings a 9–2 lead as play resumed.
More outstanding ball movement and transition play for Philadelphia allowed Brett Hickey to notch two more goals back to back with 10:46 still remaining in the game. It was Curtis Knight for Rochester who finally broke the scoring drought, and after nearly 2 full quarters without a goal, the Knighthawks scored their 3rd goal of the game.
It was at this point that the real battle began. The first of many fights in the 4th period began as Steph Charbonneu and Shawn Evans dropped the gloves. Penalties assessed to the Knighthawks opened the door for Brett Hickey to add his 4th goal of the night after being held scoreless the night before.
A rebound off of Higgins allowed Phil Caputo to score for Rochester, making the score 12–4 with 6 minutes remaining, but it was too little too late.
At this point in the game, it turned from lacrosse to a royal rumble. Over the final 5 minutes of the game, about 8 sets of gloves hit the floor and a few jerseys got ripped off as well. Everyone from either team was getting in on the action, and after a big hit by Josh Currier, Julian Garritano came flying in to the defense of his teammate, and a lot of penalties were assessed.
When the dust settled, the Wings were on a 2-man advantage, and more fights broke out. The referees made quick work of it and sent the involved players to the penalty box, and the Wings were able to just run out the clock.
This 12–4 win was a huge bounce-back victory for Philly after losing a game in overtime to the undefeated New England Blackwolves.
“We just stuck to our game plan,” said Wings forward Brett Hickey after his 4-goal performance. “It was a great game between two teams battling for a win. Wins don’t come easy in this league and you always have to fight for them.”
The Wings improve to 4–2 on the season and are still within reach of the East Division title while the Knighthawks drop to 1–5 on the season and have a tough road ahead of them as they look to move up the North division standings over the coming weeks.
Philadelphia is back in action on Friday, January 24th when the New York Riptide come to the Wells Fargo Center. That game can be watch on B/R Live and faces off at 7pm EST.