April 24, 2013 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Philadelphia Wings
The Philadelphia Wings hit the road for Rochester this weekend to take on the Knighthawks in the East Division Semi-Finals of the National Lacrosse League playoffs. Rochester will host the Wings at Blue Cross Arena in the first round for the second consecutive year on Saturday at 5 p.m., in a nationally televised game on CBS Sports Network.
The two teams met last year in Rochester for a first round game that went down to the wire, eventually going the Knighthawks' way with a 14-13 victory. Philadelphia will look to change their fortunes and even things up in the fourth meeting this season, as the Knighthawks lead the season series 2-1.
"Our struggles against Rochester have been well publicized, and to their credit they are a very good lacrosse team, but we are approaching this as one game, a best of one series, that we have to win," said Wings assistant captain Brett Manney. "In the locker room we know we have to take care of ourselves and get a playoff win for us in the locker room and for the organization. This is something our fans and this organization have been looking for, for quite some time now."
Philadelphia visited Rochester in late February and picked up their first win over their division rivals since 2009, winning 10-8. That win spurred a three game win streak for the Wings, the exact number of wins needed to win the NLL championship. At 7-9, the Wings are the three seed in the East division and enter the playoffs with the same record the defending champion Knighthawks had going into the playoffs last year, before rattling off three wins on their way to the 2012 NLL Championship.
"This is the time of year where everyone comes together," said head coach Johnny Mouradian. "This is why you play, for the playoffs. We have a high level of intensity that we need to bring and we're excited for the game."
The Wings offense has peaked at the right time, with the team reaching double digits in each of the past three games. Goals have come from the usual suspects, forwards Drew Westervelt and Kevin Crowley have each scored eight goals in the month of April, but also from some of the less likely. Rookie defender Michael Manley scored the first two goals of his career in back- to- back games this month, while transition player Brodie Merrill contributed back- to- back shorthanded breakaway goals against Washington last week. The Wings will look to both their key contributors and fringe scorers like Manley, Merrill and defender Kyle Hartzell who has also scored two goals in the Wings 2-2 April, to balance the offense and provide support for the defense.
"We feel we're playing at a level that is conducive to playing at a high level in the playoffs. We're scoring goals and we're pleased with what the "ÂO' is doing," said Mouradian. "We have to focus on what we do well and get ourselves the right opportunity, at the right time and take advantage of those opportunities to score. We'd like to get to a position where at the end of the game if it is a low scoring game, our defense has enough goals in front of them to be successful."
Starting strong and scoring early, something the Wings have struggled with this season will be especially important for Philadelphia when they meet up with arguably the strongest defense in the league on Saturday. Behind veteran goaltender Matt Vinc, who leads the league with a 10.17 goals against average, the Knighthawks have given up a league low 165 goals. Forwards Crowley, Westervelt, Kevin Buchanan and former Knighthawk Jordan Hall have each scored four goals against Rochester this season in their three previous matchups, accounting for 16 of the 27 total goals in those games.
A Wings first round playoff win against the Knighthawks on Saturday, coupled with a Toronto loss to Minnesota would result in the Wings hosting a second round playoff game at Wells Fargo Center. For more information on playoff tickets, please visit www.WingsLAX.com/playoffs.