NLL: Philadelphia Wings go to 2-0 with 8-7 win over Toronto Rock in one of three one-goal games Saturday night
The Philadelphia Wings received an invoice from Gary and Paul Gait this morning. The twins are demanding royalties on the Air Gait maneuver. Philadelphia scored three times on the kind of diving dunk goals from behind the net that the Gaits made famous, including the game-winner from Drew Westervelt with 10.9 seconds to play to conclude a run of four straight goals that gave them a stunning 8-7 come-from-behind win over the Rock to spoil Toronto’s National Lacrosse League home opener for the local fans. Colin Doyle had scored twice in a row to stretch Toronto’s lead to 7-4 and he ripped a behind-the-back shot from the high slot looking for the natural hat trick to extend the lead. The shot went wide and ricocheted off the back boards all the way to Joel White at the top of the Wings defensive arc. White took off with the ball, went the length of the floor and—despite being checked by a hustling Rob Marshall as he shot—reached up and dumped his first NLL goal over the shoulder of Nick Rose to start the comeback at 9:02 of the fourth quarter.
Just 30 seconds later, Kevin Crowley made a delicate diagonal pass through traffic to a cutting Kevin Ross, who bounced a quick shot past Rose to cut the deficit to 7-6. What had been a boisterous home crowd hummed with nervousness for the next three minutes.
Both goalies had been tremendous throughout the game and no one was scoring easily on this night. Brandon Miller stopped 53 of the 60 shots he faced in total and Rose stopped 48 of the 56 the Wings directed at him. So it was no surprise that it took another beautiful passing play for another goal to be scored. This time it was Ned Crotty and Kevin Buchanan combining to find a streaking Crowley with a perfect cross-floor pass that he took in stride and quick-sticked just under the cross-bar as Rose dove back across his crease almost in time.
There was 2:14 to play and the Wings had come all the way back to tie it 7-7. Both teams had some chances down the stretch but overtime was looming when the Wings got one final possession in the final half-minute. Brodie Merrill and Westervelt had scored back-to-back Air Gaits just over a minute apart early in the third quarter to pull Philly back from a 3-1 half-time deficit. Now the Wings went to that well one more time.
Westervelt took a pass behind the crease, dove forward and tucked the ball neatly under the crossbar before falling to the turf. Rock fans waited with baited breath while referee crew chief Mark Gardonio reviewed the play. They were hoping to hear that Westervelt had stepped on the crease line or hit the floor before the ball crossed the goal line, but the replay on the big screen above centre floor told the clear story in thousands of pixels: it was a clean goal and an 8-7 Philadelphia win.
Crowley reinforced his status as an emerging superstar with a hat trick, including a pair long-range lasers over Rose’s shoulder for the only two power play goals of the game, as well as two assists to lead the Wings. Doyle had two goals and two assists and Garrett Billings a goal and three helpers to share the top scoring total for Toronto.
The Air Canada Centre tilt wasn’t the only thriller in the NLL last night. All three games were decided by a single goal. Mike Hominuck scored a hat trick, Shawn Williams had two goals and six assists to move into a tie for the league’s scoring lead and Tracey Kelusky scored the winning goal to give Buffalo a 14-13 win over Rochester on the night the Knighthawks raised their 2012 Championship banner to the rafters.
Casey Powell scored twice and added four assists in his return to the Knighthawks and Stephen Keogh had a hat trick and two assists.
In Calgary, the Colorado Mammoth roared back from four goals down with just over four minutes to play to force overtime, then won it on Sean Pollock’s goal at 6:02 of the extra frame. John Grant, Jr. scored six goals and two assists to lead the way. Shawn Evans had almost as big a night for the Roughnecks with four goals and three assists.
Last night’s three exciting games have set the bar very high for this weekend’s final contest, today’s Edmonton Rush at Washington Stealth game. It can be seen live on the NLL network starting at 3pm Pacific Time/6pm Eastern.
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