The time always comes in battle when the decisions of statesmen and of generals can no longer affect the issue and when it is not within the power' to change the balance decisively. Victory is never achieved prior to that point; it can be won only after the battle has been delivered into the hands of men who move in imminent danger of death
Saturday night's game at the First Union Center was just short of war between these two teams. Take for example, Toronto Rock Forward Colin Doyle's comments following the back-end of the home-home series between these two teams. It's funny how they grow a spine in Philadelphia; it's the dead truth. They're soft in Toronto and they come out and play tough in Philly. It's the way it's been for a long time and the reason they were successful against us last year in Toronto was because they played tough. We expected it and we knew they were going to come at us with everything they had...we don't mind it. There is a lot of bad blood. They took away what was ours for two years and we thought should still be ours. If that's not enough to get the boys motivated, it's the fact that we have great games here year in and year out. There's obviously a level of respect between the two teams. They have some fantastic players and I'm sure that they would say the same about some of our players. But when it comes down to the floor, respect goes out the window. After a solid beating 17-9 at Toronto's Air Canada Centre and seeing their season come perilously close to a premature end, the Philadelphia Wings came out and took charge of the game in a display of force which was conspicuously absent from some recent outings in February and early March. Just 33 seconds into the night's festivities, the Wings' Dave Stilley was given a two minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and set the tone for a ferocious Wings' defense which would contain the Rock all evening and curtail the plethora of transition goals that has haunted them in the recent past. We got pushed around last night a little bit (Friday night's 17-9 loss in Toronto)...we told them, just be physical..show them right off the bat that we're not going to be pushed around...our guys came out and set the tone, probably a little too harsh...but the bottom line was the first quarter was tied 3-3 and that's what we wanted to do said Wings' Head Coach Adam Mueller. Commented Wings' General Manager, Marty O'Neill: Physical for us is to really pound these guys for thirty seconds and let the clock do the job and take the ball away. Last night I think was enough inspiration for these guys; they didn't want to let their season end like that. So they knew that had to go out, win-lose-or draw, they had to put an effort out that they could live with throughout the summer months if we indeed were out of the hunt. What you saw tonight were some guys sucking it up and playing with a whole lot of pride tonight...Dallas Eliuk fighting through an injury and having to take painkillers...these guys were less than twenty-four hours from their last effort so they really put on a show tonight...we have our playoff lives alive...we're building for the future. If Saturday night was any indication, it will be quite an exciting and bountiful future. Shortly after Stilley's salvo was fired across the bow of the Toronto Rock, the battle began. At 2:37 of the first period, five players (Toronto's Drew Candy and Dan Ladouceur and Philadelphia's Tom Ryan, Tony Henderson, and Jake Bergey) got hit with penalties, with the most (potentially) damaging being the ten-minute game misconduct to Bergey. Taking advantage of the power play opportunity, Toronto struck first blood at 3:28 of the first quarter beating Wings' defenseman Tom Slate. The Wings came right back following a holding penalty on the Rock's Kim Squire. Keith Cromwell's shot at 4:21 from the left of Toronto goalie Anthony Cosmo trickled over the line and the score was tied at 1-1. The Rock's Blaine Manning broke the deadlock at 5:55 beating Wings' defenseman Bryan Barrett, giving Toronto a 2-1 lead. Kevin Finneran's goal at the 9:09 mark once again knotted the score, albeit briefly. Colin Doyle's power play goal at 12:19 once again gave Toronto the lead following a bizarre penalty on the Wings' Jeff Ratcliffe for goaltender interference. Following suit, the Wings' Tom Marechek scored the first of his five goals at 14:11 following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Colin Doyle. Taking a great feed from Keith Cromwell on the opposite side of the net, Marechek flipped one over the right shoulder of Cosmo and the score was 3-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Marechek's touch continued into the opening minutes of the second quarter; his second of the night from Tom Slate and Andrew Martin put Philadelphia up 4-3. Colin Doyle, tied things up again at 2:07 and Mike Murray made the score 5-4 Rock with his even strength goal at 3:32. Tom Ryan brought Philadelphia back even with Toronto on his unassisted goal at 3:51. Kim Squire, who seemed to always be around the action all night gave Toronto the lead again when he took a rebound off of the pads of Wings' goalie Dallas Eliuk and caught the goalie flat-footed at 5:08. Keith Cromwell's second of the night on the power play tied the score at 6-6. Compared to the Wings' performance Friday night in Toronto, they had to be happy with their performance going into the half.
The see-saw performance of the two teams continued into the third quarter continued as Philadelphia traded goals by Jeff Ratcliffe (1:08) and Tom Marechek (5:36) with Toronto's Dan Stroup (4:07) and Kim Squire (12:59). Philadelphia thought they put Toronto to bed for the night in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. With David Stilley in the penalty box on a two minute roughing minor, the Wings' torched the Rock power play for two short-handed goals. Tony Henderson beat Dan Stroup and Ian Rubel on the first goal at 0:52 and the Wings were up 9-8. It is virtually impossible to describe what happened next; Tom Marechek's blind shot on the Toronto net miraculously went in untouched to the amazement of the entire Toronto team and the 14,361 in attendance. The Wings' were up 10-8 and the First Union Center was rocking. Another rebound kicked out by Eliuk directly to a Toronto player led to Colin Doyle's next goal at 6:39. Kevin Finneran, with the assist from Tom Ryan, put Philadelphia up by two at 7:16. Two quick goals by Toronto's Colin Doyle (7:45) and Dan Stroup (9:16) quickly erased the lead and the game was again tied. Dallas Eliuk saved the game and the Wings' season on a great save on Dan Stroup with seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
After losing the opening face-off but gaining control of the ball, Tom Marechek beat Glenn Clark and Drew Candy at 0:25 of the overtime session, putting the ball through the five-hole, leaving the everyone in the First Union Center in a state of disbelief for one reason or another. Tommy (Game M.V.P. Tom Marechek) shifted into a different gear tonight...with Jake and Mark being out (Wings' Jake Bergey and Mark Millon), he just stepped it up...We still have some work to do...we have some guys who are a little nicked up...we've beat some good teams in the league...we beat Rochester, we beat Toronto, and we beat Washington...those are three of the best teams in the league said Mueller. After the game, everyone was talking about this win. You don't even know how big it was, it was real big for just putting this year on the calendar...it's not one that slipped away even if we don't make the playoffs...we're slowly coming together, it just doesn't happen overnight...but we've been building the last couple of weeks with a couple of big wins. We didn't play too well last night but we put it behind us tonight and moved on and that's the sign of a team that's grown. We didn't call it a rebuilding year but we knew we were in tough from the get-go because we had Mark Millon and Peter Jacobs out for the first two months of the season. We have, because of expansion, all these new players and some retirement as well, so you're incorporating fourteen new people and that's not easy for any team. So it is a rebuild even though we have enough top-end talent in the starting fifteen without injuries so that we can compete with any team on any given night said Wings' General Manager, Marty O' Neill. This win was extremely big...we used our heads tonight...five-on-five we were fine last night but they (Toronto) were beating us on transition...we just weren't using our heads...tonight was a do or die situation. The two shorthanded goals we scored tonight were huge (scores by new acquisition Tony Henderson and Tom Marechek) said Wings' second year defenseman Richard Brzeski.
With Albany's win Sunday night, the Wings' continue their defense of the National Lacrosse League's Champion's Cup; here's how the playoff picture rounds out:
#5 Vancouver Ravens at #4 Rochester Knight-hawks, Saturday March 30th, 7:30pm
Blue Cross Arena, Rochester
#3 Washington Power at #6 Philadelphia Wings, Saturday March 30th, 8:00pm
First Union Center, Philadelphia. Tickets for this Saturday's Wings' playoff game are on sale now for $27, $23, and $18 and can be purchased at the First Union Center Box Office, at Ticketmaster locations throughout the Delaware Valley by calling (215) 336-2000 or (856) 338-9000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com
Washington-Philadelphia winner at #2 Toronto Rock, Friday April 5th, 7:30pm
Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Vancouver-Rochester winner at #1 Albany Attack, Saturday April 6th, 7:30pm
Pepsi Arena, Albany