The Philadelphia Wings play their third and final back-to-back set of the season this weekend as they host the New England Black Wolves this afternoon before traveling to Georgia for a 4pm date with the Swarm tomorrow. The Wings are 7-5 on the year after an 11-10 road loss last weekend in Colorado. Last weekend’s results tightened things up in the East Division, with the Black Wolves taking the lead at 7-3, Georgia now sitting at 6-4 and the Wings holding at 7-5, thus setting up what could be a turning point of the season this weekend. This is the last game of the year for the Wings against each of these division rivals; they’ll close out their divisional play next Sunday when they come back home to host the New York Riptide.
Saturday, February 29 – Colorado 11, Wings 10 at Pepsi Center: The Wings nearly pulled off a comeback for the ages, scoring three extra-attacker goals in the span of 1:43 late in the fourth quarter, but simply ran out of time in an 11-10 loss. Matt Rambo continued his breakout season with a six-point night (2G, 4A) while Kevin Crowley also added six points on two goals and four assists, but a fourth goal of the night from Colorado’s Ryan Lee near the halfway point of the fourth quarter proved to put the game out of reach. The teams traded goals to a 5-4 Wings advantage early in the third quarter. Unfortunately the Mammoth responded with a six-goal run that changed the course of the evening; by the time it was over, Colorado led 10-5 1:20 into the fourth quarter. The Wings started to claw back when Crowley scored 2:48 into the final frame, only to
see Lee reopen the five-goal lead with a tally at the 7:57 mark. Buchanan made it 11-7 with 5:30 to play, and then over the final 2:15, the Wings made things extremely interesting. With their net empty, Kiel Matisz, Josh Currier and Hickey all found the back of the Mammoth goal. It was 11-10 when the Mammoth appeared to seal things with an empty netter, but a crease violation was ruled. However, that only left the Wings with three seconds to get back down the floor for an equalizer, a demand they were unable to fulfill. Zach Higgins made 35 saves in the setback. Hickey finished with five points (2G, 3A) while Trevor Baptiste won 19 of 25 faceoffs.
SEASON SERIES VS. NEW ENGLAND
Sunday, Feb. 16 – 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 over the Black Wolves on Sunday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. Matt Rambo scored a career-high six goals and had an assist for a seven- point game, while Brett Hickey had a hat trick and three assists for a six-point contest. Kevin Crowley also had a six-point game with a goal and five assists, and Blaze Riorden had a four-assist game. Josh Currier finished with a goal and six 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.
Saturday, January 18 – New England 8, Wings 7 (OT) at Mohegan Sun Arena: An epic goaltending duel developed in the fourth quarter, but it was New England that finally broke the stalemate when Callum Crawford scored 3:47 into overtime to give the Black Wolves an 8-7 win. Doug Jamison stymied the Wings for more than 21 minutes, stopping all 13 shots he saw
in the fourth quarter and overtime, to lift New England to the victory. Zach Higgins was practically equal in the Wings crease, denying 12 of 13 Black Wolves shots in the fourth quarter and turning away 47 shots on the night. Matt Rambo’s three goals led the way for the Wings; he also led the team with 13 shots on goal. Alex Pace scored his first NLL tally, while Kevin Crowley and Cory Vitarelli had two assists apiece, Brett Hickey was kept off the board despite 11 shots. Trevor Baptiste had another outstanding night on the faceoff dot, winning 14 of 19 draws. The Wings fired 57 shots on Jamieson, who took third-star honors with 50 saves.
The Wings enjoy a home-heavy end to the season. With six games left including today, the Wings play four of them here at the Wells Fargo Center. Tomorrow’s trip to Georgia is the team’s last road game until April 18, when they’ll close out the season at Halifax.
Zach Higgins comes into the weekend ranked fourth in the NLL in goals- against average at 9.34, as well as in save percentage at .817. Higgins has played more minutes this year than any goaltender except for Colorado’s Dillon Ward. His 473 saves rank third in the league.
Kevin Crowley is fourth in the NLL in scoring with 20 goals and 41 assists for 61 points. The 41 assists lead the NLL, and his 173 shots are second in the league. 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 has 20 goals and 31 assists for 51 points on the season, putting him in a trio of players ranked eighth in the league in scoring. He has 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points in his last five games, and is one of only seven players to record a sock trick this season with six goals vs. the Black Wolves back on Feb. 16. Rambo has at least a point in every game this year and has put up three points or more in nine of the 12 games.
Brett Hickey has 26 goals and 13 assists for 39 points on the year. He’s tied for fifth in the league in goals with Georgia’s Shayne Jackson entering the weekend. Hickey leads the NLL with four game-winning goals so far this year. He’s 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. 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 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points. He leads that group in shots with 76. Matisz has averaged 28:32 time-on-field per game this year, which leads the league.
Trevor Baptiste is 216 for 293 (73.7 pct) at the faceoff dot this season, which is second in the league to Halifax’s Jake Withers in both wins and winning percentage. He’s also second in the league in loose balls at 133.
LEADING THE WINGS
The Wings return their entire coaching staff from last season. 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.