Wings Win 15-12 in Match-up of League's Two Hottest Teams
Saturday, March 15, 2003
By David W. Unkle
It was gut check time for the Philadelphia Wings (7-5) as the National Lacrosse League’s top team, the Buffalo Bandits (9-2) came to town on the heels of a six-game winning streak. Philadelphia, playing their best lacrosse of the season and on their own four-game winning streak, was ready for the challenge.
Buffalo uses their physical style of play to set up their offensive game; witness the Bandits atop the NLL rankings in penalties/minutes per game (13.5/32:00) and goals per game (15.4).
The Wings game plan was basic: grab the early lead, keep Buffalo’s physical presence from setting up an offensive outburst in the final quarters of the first and second half, and avoid power play and transition goals.
It’s all about getting our offense off the floor and being unselfish, not looking for a rebound or crash the cage like we do some games, said Wings Head Coach Adam Mueller. That was a big problem with the Philadelphia Wings teams in the past but this year we’re getting better at not giving those goals up.
It was a huge win for our team, said defenseman Jeff Spano. It was the first time that our offense and our defense put together four quarters. I think the last half of tonight’s game was a turning point for us.
The Wings jumped out to a 4-0 lead within the first 4:19 of the game, scoring on 4 of their first 5 shots. Philadelphia (Keith Cromwell, Dan Marohl) and Buffalo (Jason Crosbie, John Tavares) traded power play goals, giving Philadelphia the 6-2 lead.
Immediately following Tavares’ score, the floor erupted as the officials ran out of hands to separate the players. Philadelphia’s Andrew Guindon and Buffalo’s Pat McCready getting were assessed game misconducts while the Wings Ryan Traynor and Drew Candy and the Bandits Bill Dee Smith and Mark Steenhuis were hit with fighting majors.
After a delay of over fifteen minutes, play resumed with Cromwell’s second goal of the quarter giving Philadelphia a commanding 7-2 lead.
Buffalo’s Duane Jacobs punctuated the close of the first quarter with a power play goal that would jumpstart the Bandits as they headed into the second quarter.
As they have done all season long, Buffalo dominated the second quarter, scoring five unanswered goals while taking an improbable 8-7 lead into the half.
Two third period goals by Jeff Ratcliffe led Philadelphia back to 9-9.
Drew is not going to outrun many guys in the league but he outran three of (Buffalo’s) guys and stuck it in the net, said Mueller. That goal on the breakaway was a huge momentum builder for us.
Buffalo’s John Tavares gave the visitors life with 4:10 to play but Ratcliffe’s goal with 3:02 to go seemed to squelch any idea of a comeback. Tom Marechek slammed the door closed with an empty-netter with 67 seconds to go.
Referring to the Wings dominance in the final stanza, it’s amazing; it was the fourth quarter we needed against teams like Toronto, Rochester, Ottawa and we finally got it tonight against Buffalo, said Mueller. If we play our system, we should be in every game against every team, bar none.
Every game we’ve played this year has been tight going into the fourth quarter, added Mueller. We can’t take anything for granted because we don’t have talent that other teams have. We need to keeping grinding, working hard and do all of the little things.
Tonight, we wanted it a little bit more than they did.
STAR OF THE GAME: Dallas Eliuk (PHL)
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