It wasn’t so much of a breakdown, but more of a speed wobble.
The Philadelphia Wings were cruising after an impressive road sweep of two high-caliber teams last weekend. But returning home to the Wells Fargo Center was anything but sweet for the Wings on Saturday as they suffered a 15-10 loss to the Saskatchewan Rush in a battle of first place teams.
“We had some success lately and I think a lot of times you don’t learn from success,” Wings Coach and General Manager Paul Day said. “I didn’t think we had the jump tonight. We didn’t have the loose balls and the fundamentals of the game. And (the Rush) are a group that has been together a long time and their chemistry is unbelievable.”
Ryan Keenan, Jeff Shattler and Ben McIntosh each recorded a hat trick and Mark Matthews piled up a goal and eight assists as the Rush fired 51 shots at the Wings’ net.
The Wings led twice in the opening quarter, but only for a combined 1:28. Blaze Riorden’s goal with 2:35 left in the first quarter was the final time Philly was ahead in the game, and it was quickly answered by Keenan just 31 second later. The Rush reeled off five straight goals to silence the home crowd and chase goaltender Zach Higgins from the crease. Higgins was superb early on, but Day made the change hoping to spark his team.
“I thought Zach was playing well and it could have been a lot worse at that time,” Day said. “But they had five in a row and we had already called timeout. We just wanted to change the momentum.”
Brandon Miller (22 saves on 29 shots) entered the game in goal and gave the Wings a spark as defenseman Steph Charbonneau scored back-to-back goals in transition to pull Philly within two goals at 7-5 and end the team’s 12-minute goal drought.
“He’s our Energizer Bunny back there,” Day said of Charbonneau. “He does everything for us defensively and had a great goal on transition and then a highlight goal off a rebound, following up. For a second-year player, he’s one of our most important guys back there.”
Charbonneau’s first was on a breakaway after a steal. His second, which came 1:15 later, was on a Kevin Crowley rebound in transition.
“When I know that my partner below me is in position and we’re on the same page, then I can take that extra step up and get in that passing lane,” said Charbonneau, who doubled his season total for goals on Saturday.
The momentum was short-lived as McIntosh followed with a late goal to send the Rush into the locker room happy with an 8-5 lead at halftime. Saskatchewan opened the third with back to back goals to make it 10-5 before the Wings pieced together their best surge of the night, scoring four of the next five goals. Josh Currier scored twice during that span and Crowley and Riorden each added a goal as the Wings trailed 11-9 with 14 minutes remaining in regulation.
But Saskatchewan, which entered the game 4-0 on the road, grinded out a nearly perfect fourth quarter to put the game away. The Rush raised their West Division Leading record to 6-2 while the Wings dropped to 7-4, still clinging to first place in the East.
“Turn the page,” Wings captain Kiel Matisz said. “We didn’t prepare well this week. Our kind of mentality is sticking to our principles and we got away from that tonight. Turn the page, next play mentality, take some positives from film and utilize those and wash away some of the bad stuff.