The Philadelphia Wings (2-9) took a three-goal lead into the final quarter of Friday night’s eastern division matchup against the Buffalo Bandits (10-2). They still lost, 12-11.
Chris Cloutier, playing against his former team, scored Buffalo’s first goal of the fourth quarter — and his second of the game — to ignite a run that culminated with Chase Fraser’s game-winner five minutes into overtime.
The scoring drought that plagued the Wings during the final 20 minutes was nothing new. They had played a strong few periods against the best team in the NLL, with every forward on the team — Kiel Matisz, Kevin Crowley, Blaze Riorden, Justin Guterding (first career goal), Matt Rambo, Jordan Hall and Josh Currier — finding the net at least once. Just fifteen more minutes were needed to puff a breath of life into what’s been a trying inaugural season for the franchise.
But just as they have nearly every game this season, the Wings did not have a full four quarters in them. The result was familiar; Philadelphia fell to 1-6 in games decided by two goals or fewer. Paul Day’s postgame comments, though, brought a new message, because his first-year players, now 11 games into their careers, are hardly rookies anymore.
“This isn’t school,” the head coach/general told reporters. “I’m tired of talking about learning.”
The sentiment from Day was a stark contrast from the claim that despite its early struggles, his team was “getting better every week.” There is no time for that anymore. The Wings have seven games left on their schedule and sit 5 1/2 games behind New England for a playoff spot. Math has not ruled them out. But it’s hardly worth calculating what it would take to change that impending fate.
A win against a first-place team would have been a good place to start. Instead, Philadelphia and the 10,805 fans on hand at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night are left to ponder why, in the words of defenseman Anthony Joaquim, the Wings “gave that game away.”
“I think we’re all trying to figure that out stil,” said Joaquim, who scored in the second quarter to give the Wings a four-goal advantage, their largest of the night.
The Bandits, to their credit, took advantage of the Wings’ collapse. Cloutier scored a minute into the fourth. Ten scoreless minutes passed. Fraser earned a hat trick to bring Buffalo within a goal. Corey Small knotted the score at 11 apiece with 1:07 remaining on the clock. Fraser struck once more during the extra period.
The clutch finish further separated the Bandits from the rest of the eastern division. Their 10-2 record is three wins better than that of the 7-2, second-place rock. Saturday’s slate of games pits Toronto at Calgary at 9 p.m. ET. Buffalo hosts Georgia at 7:30 p.m. ET.