Ninety percent of the game is half mental.
It didn't take long for Philadelphia to score in last night's 19-17 win over the Ottawa Rebel. While most people were still getting comfortable in their seats, Kevin Finneran, on a move from the left of Rebel's goalie Andrew Leyshon, came in the slot unopposed and easily whisked one past Leyshon at 0:55 of the first quarter. Tom "Hollywood" Marechek made the score 2-0 on an over-the-shoulder shot that caught Leyshon moving in the wrong direction. Ottawa cut the score to 2-1 on Chris Knopliff's 21st of the season following a cross-checking call on Mark Millon. Unlike their last two home games, the Wings came out a played a stifling defense for the opening 15 minutes limiting Ottawa to one goal on thirteen shots. This was a marked improvement from their previous games against New Jersey and Columbus where they surrendered 6 goals and 3 goals, respectively, while only scoring one goal in the first quarter of both games.
Philadelphia quickly went on top 3-1 as Marechek beat Leyshon to his right following a nice pass from the opposite side of the net from Tom Ryan. Ottawa rebounded with three goals in 2:56 to go on top 4-3. Mike Benedict scored his 17th of the year unassisted at 1:15 followed by his 18th on a delayed penalty call. The Wings' Richard Brzeski was called for holding while the Rebel maintained possession of the ball; with the goalie pulled on the delayed penalty and the extra runner, the Rebel scored the equalizer. Less than a minute later following a steal on Wings' Jake Bergey, Ottawa's Andrew Guindon scored to put the Rebel up 4-3. The Wings' faithful had horrific visions of New Jersey and Columbus; the Wings' coaching staff must have felt the same way, calling a ten second timeout to regroup the troops. Whatever Wings' Coach Adam Mueller said, it worked, as Jeff Ratcliffe scored the first of his eight goals on the night approximately 18 seconds after the timeout, when he went over two defenders to put the ball past Leyshon. Ottawa went back up 5-4 at 7:09 as Jamie Raffan beat the Wings' Jeff Spano in front of goalie Dallas Eliuk. Six seconds later, Wings' Peter Jacobs, on a 3-1 break, made the score 5-5. Tom Ryan made the score 6-5 Wings on a nice pass from Captain Dave Stilley on a 2-1 break. In a demonstration of what makes lacrosse exciting, Ottawa went back on top with a three goal surge in 39 seconds. Mike Benedict tied the score at 9:29 following a tripping call on the Ratcliffe. At 9:40, a score by Ottawa's Marty O'Brien put the Rebel back on top7-6. When the Rebel's Jamie Roy scored twenty-eight seconds later making the score 8-6, the Wings' took another timeout to regroup. While the effect was not a sudden as the first, the Wings scored at 11:57 on Mark Millon's tenth of the season following a holding penalty to Guindon. The Wings' had the chance to knot the score while on the power play but instead surrendered a shorthanded goal when Jamie Roy caught the Wings' in transition going in untouched on Wings' goalie Dallas Eliuk making the score 9-7 Ottawa going into the half.
Invigorated during the break, the Wings came out with two quick goals to tie the game on scores by Jeff Ratcliffe and Mark Millon in the opening 1:24. Mike Benedict made the score 10-9 Rebel with assists from Chris Konopliff and Dan Marohl. Ryan Painter put the Rebel back up by two which led to the Wings' first casualty of the night. Following an illegal cross-check by Painter, the Wings' Dave Stilley and Painter waged war resulting in a five minute fighting penalty and a game misconduct for Stilley and a two minute instigation penalty, five minute fighting penalty and a game misconduct for Stilley (his second in five games). With the Wings on the power play, Mark Millon got the hat trick and the score was 11-10 Rebel. Philadelphia went back on top with three even-strength goals in 1:03. Kevin Finneran's goal at 9:46 tied the score and Jeff Ratcliffe's two goals twenty seconds apart put the Wings up 13-11. The Wings got caught in transition allowing DJ Serr to score on a breakaway at 11:46. Thanks to screens by the Rebel's
Sam Cook and the Wings' Jake Bergey, goalie Andrew Leyshon never saw Ratcliffe's fifth goal of night until it hit the back of the net. The Wings were up 15-12 going strong into the final quarter.
Dallas Eliuk made perhaps his biggest save of the night as the Wings again got caught in the transition game, allowing Jamie Roy to go in unopposed just 0:15 into the 4th quarter. Jeff Ratcliffe's power play goal put Philadelphia up 16-12. Ottawa's third three goal run of the night (on goals by Mike Tarbell, Mike Benedict, and Dan Marohl) cut the Wings' lead to 16-15. The Wings' second casualty of the night occurred with 8:01 to go in the game. With the Wings up 16-14, Jamie Roy ran into goalie Dallas Eliuk taking him out of the game with a medial collateral ligamentous injury (knee). Replaced by Chris Sanderson, the Rebel's first shot on goal went in on the shot from Marohl. Jeff Ratcliffe's goal at 8:22 put the Wings up 17-15 before Mike Benedict's sixth goal of the night made the score 17-16. Jeff Ratcliffe's eight of the night (and team leading 39th of the season) put the Wings' up 18-16. On an outlet pass three-quarters down field from goalie Chris Sanderson, Ratcliffe got behind Rebel's defenseman Jason Tasse and beat goalie Matt Disher who earlier replaced Leyshon. Mark Millon's fourth of the night made the score 19-16 with 2:38 to go. Mike Tarbell made it 19-17 beating Sanderson low to the stick side. The Wings' defense shut the door and Philadelphia escaped with the win evening their record to 6-6 while the Rebel dropped to 2-10.
At press time the extent of Dallas Eliuk's injury is unknown begging the question: how will the team respond to playing in front of Chris Sanderson. As demonstrated last week in the game versus Columbus and in tonight's 4th quarter, the Wings' are two different teams with Eliuk and Sanderson in the cage. Sanderson's less than inspiring performance 4 saves on 7 shots raises many concerns. Wings' Coach Adam Mueller stated: we're going to be confident...he [Sanderson] played well against New Jersey and Columbus when our defense played well in front of him...as long as we play good defense, we'll be all right. Mueller went on to say that ...most of the goals tonight were either on the power play or on transition. That was a hot point for us. I think through the course of the game, offensively, everyone gets worried about getting a rebound, going after a rebound, or what if we [the Wings] get the ball... am I going to be open, instead of playing conservatively. It's something that we tried to key in all game. The physical side of the Wings' reappeared tonight with a combined 16 penalties for 38 minutes (and two game misconducts) being called. Mueller said...It was really the offense getting their stride and moving the ball...it's something that we've been keying on...we kept them to one goal in the first quarter and that's great for us...can we sustain that for four quarters? Against Rochester we did and against New York we did...we seemed to fall down the last couple of games and not play as physical...we got back into it tonight.
The Wings' take on Eastern Division leading Washington Power at the First Union Center on Saturday, March 16 at 8:00 PM. Individual tickets are available at Ticketmaster.
Be sure to vote for your favorite Philadelphia Wings player to represent the South in the National Lacrosse League All Star Game on April 21, 2002 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. You can vote on-line at www.nationallacrosse.com, the official website of the National Lacrosse League (NLL).
Check out the Professional Lacrosse Player's Association website at www.plpa.com for interviews with Philadelphia Wings' players along with other top names in the NLL.
Listen to "Inside the Wings" on The Topcat & Taggart Sports Show every Sunday from 4:30-5:30 PM on WNJC 1360-AM. "Inside the Wings" will feature a player interview, the latest news on the team, and giveaways.