An entire season comes down to one game for the Philadelphia Wings this Saturday night. As one of three teams battling for the final two NLL playoff positions, the Wings control their own destiny and can punch a ticket to the postseason with a win in Georgia on Saturday night.
Georgia (9-8), Albany (8-9) and Philadelphia (8-9) are all still alive in the East, with the Wings and the Swarm going head-to-head on the final weekend. Albany is also in action, taking on New York. A win over Georgia would slot the Wings into the fourth seed in the West if Albany defeats the Riptide, or the fourth seed in the East if the Firewolves drop their final contest.
If there needed to be any further explanation of how close the competition is in the NLL, it’s made clear by the current situation the Wings are in. They have the upper hand in this weekend’s contest thanks to two goals – both of them scored in overtime, both of them against Georgia.
On January 8 in Philadelphia, Blaze Riorden scored 15 seconds into overtime to give the Wings a 12-11 victory over the Swarm. After a stingy first half that saw each team only score two goals, the second half turned into a neck-and-neck race where the Wings opened up six different leads, only to see Georgia equalize each time. Philadelphia had gone up 11-10 on a goal by Ben McIntosh with 2:40 to play, but with their goaltender pulled and an extra attacker out, the Swarm knotted the score with less than a second to play on a goal by Brendan Bomberry. That set the stage for Riorden’s heroics, which came nearly immediately after Trevor Baptiste won another crucial faceoff and gave the Wings possession to call a timeout.
It was a different type of game on January 29 in Georgia, one that required the Wings to mount a second-half comeback after trailing 6-2 at halftime. The Swarm’s dangerous offense had gathered the first four goals of the game and had shut the Wings down for most of two quarters when Philadelphia turned the tables out of halftime, going on a 5-0 run that included them keeping Georgia off the scoreboard for more than 25 minutes – the entire third quarter and most of the fourth. It was 7-6 Wings after McIntosh completed his second half hat-trick 2:58 into the fourth – McIntosh was responsible for three of the goals in that 5-0 run – and it stayed that way for the next seven minutes until Jordan Hall knotted the score with 4:55 to play.
The contest took a little longer to decide this time around, as the goaltenders and defense continued to stand strong through the first part of the overtime period. It wasn’t until the 6:34 mark that Brett Hickey bounced one home to give the Wings their second OT win of the season against the Swarm.
Whether Saturday’s game is as close as the previous two between the clubs is anyone’s guess, but while there’s no doubt Georgia is out for a bit of revenge, the Wings have the confidence of two previous wins – one they controlled and one they had to regain control of – to lean on as they try to return the city of Philadelphia to the NLL postseason for the first time since 2013.