NLL Week 12: Wings Claim Top Spot in East Division

PHOTO BY JOE HRYCYCH/NLL


Down nine goals, some teams might pack it in and prepare for the next game. But not the Halifax Thunderbirds.

Unfortunately for the T-Birds, the effort was for naught. Halifax dug itself out of a 12-3 hole in the third quarter and a 14-7 hole in the fourth to force overtime, but Saskatchewan’s Mike Messenger scored in the extra frame to lift the Rush to a 16-15 victory Saturday night.

“We just battled through,” Saskatchewan’s Mark Matthews said postgame. “We really needed something like this to build momentum going forward.”

The comeback still made for a special moment, and one that should help build die-hard fans in an area new to the sport.

Both teams appeared to score in the extra frame before Messenger’s leaping tally, starting off with a spectacular Cody Jamieson goal in the first minute. He plowed through tight coverage to beat Evan Kirk, but the call was reversed when it was discovered he didn’t get his shot off in time. Then a Ben McIntosh goal was called off on a crease violation.

Robert Church and Matthews each had six points for the Rush. Halifax was led by ten points from Ryan Benesch and nine from Jamieson.

“Obviously, it was great to see what we’re capable of, but it’s the second week in a row that we let ourselves get down by so much and then try to come back,” Jamieson told HalifaxThunderbirds.com. “When we want to play and turn it on, we are capable of scoring goals in bunches, but that has to be our first, second, third quarter mentality, and not just the fourth.”

Continuing to Improve

With two more wins, the Philadelphia Wings’ improvements in their second season are looking more and more legitimate.

The weekend started in Buffalo, where the Wings benefited from a depleted Bandits offensive unit. Buffalo was without MVP candidate Dhane Smith and dazzling playmaker Chase Fraser, and the remaining group only mustered a half-dozen goals in a 7-6 Wings triumph.

It was a bit of a revenge game for Wings goalie Zach Higgins, who was traded away from Buffalo in a swap of backup goaltenders this offseason. He made 44 saves.

Brett Hickey and Kevin Crowley each had three points in a game in which the Wings went on a 6-1 run stretching from the first quarter to the third quarter.

A day later, Philadelphia made the always-grueling trip to New England and beat their rival for the second time in a month, this time thanks to a late 5-1 run in a 14-11 victory.

Matt Rambo had six goals and an assist in the win against the Black Wolves. Hickey and Crowley each had six points.

The Wings have won four of their last five games, pushing them to the top of the East Division at 7-3.







A Bit of Payback

The Georgia Swarm made sure they weren’t surprised by the New York Riptide again, while Colorado bounced back from its loss to the Seals in Las Vegas.

Georgia scored nine goals in the second quarter, each by a different player, as the Swarm pulled away for a 14-9 victory on its home turf. Four of those goals came from defensemen.

“We talked a lot about just moving the ball and really moving our feet,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau told GeorgiaSwarm.com. “I thought we did that, especially in the first half. First half, I thought we were really good, and we had a lot of good looks … Just moving our feet, moving the ball, that’s our success, and that’s going to continue to be our success.”

Shayne Jackson served as the primary distributor, dishing out six assists, and Lyle Thompson notched a hat trick to go with one assist. The win split the season series between these two East Division squads at one win apiece.

Colorado fended off a late three-goal San Diego run by scoring the final two goals in a 10-7 West Division victory. The win came two weeks after San Diego rolled to a 17-10 victory over the Mammoth in the NLL’s first-ever game in Las Vegas.

“The last time we played these guys, our defense was spread out too much and tonight, we were able to pack it in — we gave them the outside shots, and that’s when Dillon Ward is at his best,” Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle told ColoradoMammoth.com. “We left Dillon out to dry last time we played San Diego, and I think our guys took that to heart and wanted it to be different tonight, and it was.”

Ward earned his 50th career victory. Ryan Lee led the Mammoth offensively with six points.

Taking Advantage

While both the Bandits and Thunderbirds fell, Toronto breezed to a 14-7 victory against Vancouver in the most one-sided contest of the weekend. Rob Hellyer had eight points, scoring two of his six goals in a 5-0 run that helped the Rock pull ahead in the second and third quarters.

“We’re playing as a unit (on offense), I think that’s the biggest thing,” Hellyer said postgame. “Lefties, righties, we’re moving the ball really well, and everyone’s getting chances. We’re just making the most of them right now.”

With the win, Toronto moved into a tie atop the North Division with Halifax at 6-2. Buffalo sits one half-game back.

Noteworthy

The San Diego Seals relocated their Rumble at the Runway game, slated for next Saturday at the MCAS Miramar, due to the base serving as a quarantine center for those who have visited areas suffering from the Coronavirus. It will instead be played at Pechanga Arena … Toronto and Saskatchewan’s wins counted for the Alterna Cup. The pair are the only undefeated teams remaining in the competition, with Toronto 2-0 against Canadian foes and Saskatchewan 1-0 … Mike Poulin earned his 39th win with the Swarm, setting a franchise record, surpassing Steve Dietrich to move into sixth all time in NLL career saves … Calgary is set to get Dane Dobbie back in the lineup next week with the completion of his suspension.

Up Next
All times EST

Friday
Toronto at Halifax, 6 p.m.

Saturday
Vancouver at San Diego, 2:30 p.m.
Saskatchewan at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Rochester at New England, 7 p.m.
Calgary at Georgia, 7 p.m.

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