The Philadelphia Wings look for their third win in a row as they host the Saskatchewan Rush in their 11th game of the season. The Wings are 7-3 on the year and are in first place in the East Division after sweeping a back-to-back set last weekend in Buffalo and New England. Although much of the rest of the league has played fewer games, the Wings became the first team to reach seven wins on the season. This is the only home game in the month of February for the Wings; they’ll be on the road next week in Colorado before coming back home on March 7 for their final showdown of the season with New England.
Saturday, February 15, 2020 – Wings 7, Buffalo 6 at KeyBank Arena: The Buffalo Bandits were the league’s highest-scoring team entering the weekend, but goaltender Zach Higgins and the Wings defense kept Buffalo off the board for more than 26 minutes in the middle of the contest en route to a 7-6 win. The Wings allowed just one goal in each of the first three quarters, while Buffalo’s Josh Byrne, who was second in the NLL with 23 goals entering the contest and took 19 shots in the game, was kept off the scoreboard until he scored his only tally with 1:36 left in the game. Kevin Crowley (1G, 2A) and Brett Hickey (2G, 1A) led the Wings with three points each, while Crowley also had 13 shots on goal. Stef Charbonneau grabbed 10 loose balls, and Trevor Baptiste won 14 of the game’s 17 faceoffs. Higgins, who played for Buffalo last season, made 38 saves on 44 Buffalo shots to earn the win. Matt Vinc took the loss with the same amount of saves on 45 Philly bids.
Sunday, February 16, 2020 – Wings 14, New England 11 at Mohegan Sun Arena: The Wings sprinted out to a 6-1 lead and withstood a New England comeback to pull out a 14-11 win. Matt Rambo scored a career-high six goals to set the foundation
for the Wings, who won their second game in as many days to move into sole possession of first place in the National Lacrosse League’s East Division. Rambo had an assist along with his six goals for a seven-point game, while Brett Hickey (3G, 3A) and Kevin Crowley (1G, 5A) both had six-point games. Blaze Riorden had four assists, and Josh Currier finished with a goal and three assists. Trevor Baptiste won 20 of 29 faceoffs, and Zach Higgins earned the win with 50 saves while blanking New England for the first 19 minutes of the game.
Tonight’s game is the only home game in the month of February for the Wings. They are back on the road next weekend to close out February with a visit to Colorado. From there, the Wings will play four of their final six games at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Wings are 7-3 through 10 games in their second NLL season. Last year at this time, the Wings were 2-8 en route to a final record of 4-14. The Wings have scored 112 goals, which is actually five fewer than last year at this time, but they have allowed 88, which is 46 fewer than they’d allowed through
10 games last year. They’ve also faced 14 fewer shorthanded situations than they had a year ago at this time.
The Wings have been the league’s best defensive team headed into this weekend. They have allowed 88 goals over 10 games for a league- leading average of 8.8 goals against per game. The defense has been especially sound at home, allowing 32 goals over four games (8.0 avg) compared to 56 goals allowed over six road games (9.33 avg).
That defensive effort has been anchored by the goaltending of Zach Higgins, who is having a breakout season. Higgins is second in the NLL in minutes played at 602:36 and, among the 19 goaltenders who have played at least 60 minutes this season, Higgins leads the league in save percentage at .828 and in goals-against average at 8.76.
Kevin Crowley continues to lead the Wings in scoring and enters the weekend second in the NLL in scoring with 17 goals and 34 assists for 51 points. Crowley is the only player on the roster to score at least one goal in every game this season, and is also the only one to have multiple points in every game this year. Crowley is on pace to surpass his career high of 90 points set during the 2016 season.
Matt Rambo had a career game on Sunday in New England, dropping career highs of six goals and seven points. In doing so, Rambo leapt to eighth in the NLL in goals and a tie for eighth in overall points with 18 goals and 25 assists for 45 points on the season. Rambo has at least a point in every game this year and has put up three points or more in eight of the 10 games this year. In his last three games, Rambo has a total of 10 goals and six assists for 16 points.
Brett Hickey returned to the lineup last weekend after missing the Georgia game on Jan. 31 and picked up a total of five goals and three assists over the two games. Hickey has posted at least a hat trick in five games this season, including a four-goal game vs. ROC on 1/19 and a five-goal game vs. NY on 1/24. His 22 goals lead the Wings and are fourth in the NLL headed into the weekend. Hickey was the Wings’ first pick in the expansion draft ahead of last season, but only appeared in three games before sustaining a season-ending injury.
Kiel Matisz continues to lead all NLL defense/transition players in scoring with nine goals and 20 assists for 29 points. He leads that group in shots with 64. Matisz has averaged 29:12 time-on-field per game this year, which leads the league.
Trevor Baptiste is 175-for-238 (73.5 pct) at the faceoff dot this season. He leads the league in both faceoff wins and in loose balls (108), and is second in overall faceoff percentage. Baptiste has scored six goals this season after going all of last year without a tally.
LEADING THE WINGS
Head coach and GM Paul Day brings more than 20 years of coaching experience to the Wings bench as either a head coach or assistant, including four championships with the Rochester Knighthawks and NLL Coach of the Year honors in 2003. Day is assisted by offensive coach Tracey Kelusky, who went into coaching in 2014 after a 14-year NLL playing career, and defensive coach Ian Rubel, who won three NLL championships with the Toronto Rock.