Blaze Riorden helps Wings escape with an OT win over rival Swarm, 13-12
What a way to kick off the first game of a Philly triple-header on Saturday!
Fans who attended Wells Fargo or tuned in to ESPNews for some matinee lacrosse were rewarded with a 13-12 overtime victory from the Wings thanks to a goal from lefty forward Blaze Riorden. The win improves the Wings to 3-1 on the season, but a slow start and inability to put their opponent away nearly doomed the team again.
The Wings returned to Wells Fargo following a 12-9 loss to the Toronto Rock prior to the holiday break. Despite the loss at Toronto, the Wings actually had one of their better defensive showings against a capable Rock offense. Yet the storyline to come out of their first loss on the season was a scary injury to starting goalie Zach Higgins, who had a shot go through his facemask.
Penney Steps Up in Higgins’ Absence
Higgins would not suit up for the Wings in their game against the Georgia Swarm, and as a result Coach Paul Day opted to start veteran goalie Eric Penney, who was signed earlier this week after being released by the Vancouver Warriors at the start of the season. Despite limited time to prepare, Penney played great in cage for the Wings, and picked up right where Higgins left off. His 29 saves in the first half contributed to 2-2 score at halftime.
“Sometimes you’re just seeing the ball really well,” Penney said after the game. “Getting that second opportunity to get back into this league, you don’t want to take it for granted.”
On the flip side, the Wings offense struggled following two early goals by Ben McIntosh and Matt Rambo as the Swarm played a packed in defense and dared the Wings to test Mike Poulin from long range. The scheme worked, and the Wings were blanked in the second quarter by Poulin, who had 21 saves of his own.
A Tale of Two Halves
It was a tale of two halves though as the second half saw a surge of goals from both teams. Philly secured its largest lead of the game after goals from McIntosh, Kevin Crowley, Riorden and Rambo. Yet, the Swarm would answer with a three-goal run of their own.
The teams traded goals to open the fourth quarter before McIntosh and Rambo each completed hat-tricks to give Philly a late 10-8 lead. The lead was short-lived as Jordan Hall and Lyle Thompson would answer and tie it at 10 with just under four minutes to go. A minute later, McIntosh answered with the go-ahead goal and his fourth of the night.
Yet, the Wings late-game woes would creep up again as miscommunication on the left side allowed Swarm forward Brendan Bomberry to find space and score the game-tying goal with less than a second left, forcing overtime.
The Wings entered overtime for the second time this season, but once again it wouldn’t take long for them to pull out the victory thanks to a Blaze Riorden goal 15 seconds into OT. After the game, Riorden credited the Philly faithful who showed to back the team on a busy Saturday in Philly sports.
“Having the best fans in the league is definitely a nice little jolt of energy for our organization,” Riorden said.
With the win, the Wings improved to 3-1 and moved to third in the East Division standings. Next week, they’ll host an Albany FireWolves franchise, which started out as the original Philadelphia Wings before moving to New England in 2014. The teams have shared many close games since the current incarnation of the Wings was formed in 2017, so despite a city and name change for the FireWolves, we should expect another close battle at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday at 12pm ET.
The Wings may be 3-1 in the win-loss column, but for those sports bettors following along, they’re now 0-4 against the spread. While betting on the NLL in Pennsylvania is not yet available, it’s probably safe to stay away from this Wings team as 1.5-point favorites for the foreseeable future.
As for the total of 20.5, the game seemed to be headed for the under after only four goals were scored in the first 30 minutes, but a late surge of goals in the second half contributed to the total hitting over late in the fourth.
Mandatory Credit: The Philadelphia Wings