NLL: Fight night in Philly leads to Wings’ win

The Rochester Knighthawks and Philadelphia Wings combined for 108 penalty minutes on January 19, 2020. (Photo credit: Laura Kupsey)

It may have been pyjama night at Wells Fargo Center, but the Philadelphia Wings weren’t the ones caught sleeping in the 12-4 fisticuffs which could also have been labelled a Sunday Smackdown.

Fresh off their first win of the season, the Rochester Knighthawks collapsed in epic fashion in a game that saw several scuffles and consecutive penalty shots.

The Wings played solid defense and limited Shawn Evans (who singlehandedly seemed to destroy Philadelphia last season) Holden Cattoni, Curtis Knight and Phil Caputo to one goal each – that was all that Rochester could muster. Philly goalie Zach Higgins stopped 41 shots while shutting out the Knighthawks in the first and third quarters.

Shawn Evans of the Rochester Knighthawks (Photo credit: Tracey Happold-Brown)

Of the 108 penalty minutes assessed in the game, 22 went to someone with the last name of Evans. Shawn, Turner and Dylan factored heavily into Rochester’s pugilistic evening. Shawn heard derogatory comments from both the fans and the players but did not seem to let it bother him as he walked off the field at the end of the game without any other issues.

The game seemed to become more violent as Rochester saw their chances for a victory slipping out of their hands. And while the aggressive style of play seems to come when a victory is large, this isn’t something that is new to Philadelphia who has seen Rochester play this way before.

When asked about the ramifications from the league with potential players getting fined or suspended as a result of the large amount of altercations, head coach Paul Day wasn’t concerned. His only concern was a hit on Trevor Baptiste while defenceless.

“I know a lot of those guys very, very well,” Day said – he manages a large number of players on both sides with the MSL’s Peterborough Lakers in the summer, and coaches with Knighthawks’ bench boss Mike Hasen. “Back-to-backs to begin with get guys fired up. I thought we handled it pretty well. We faced up which is important. I don’t think we were starting it, but we weren’t backing down which is important. And obviously when you’re up by a lot of goals too, you know, you don’t want to get involved in it if you don’t have to, you just want to keep playing lacrosse. I mentioned at halftime if we keep being up, be aware that things are going to happen. That happens in a lopsided game like that.”

Philadelphia’s Josh Currier mixes it up with Rochester’s Julian Garritano. (Photo credit: Laura Kupsey)

And not being concerned seems exactly what Day needs to be. Of all the penalties, Rochester’s Julian Garritano was the only one who walked away with a fighting penalty after Josh Currier was called for a hold; Garritano received an instigator as well. Instead, the game had ten roughing calls. At times it was reminiscent of the old school Philadelphia Wings and their bloodbaths, and for a city that saw a lot of defeats last year as they brought the team back to the “City of Brotherly Love,” it was needed. The fans were roaring at their players, the other players, the officials and anyone else they could think of. Coming off of a controversial overtime goal that resulted in a loss for the Wings and a drop to second place in the standings, it was almost cathartic.

There was a large numbers of players who stood out for Philadelphia. Brett Hickey came out with four goals on the night. Matt Rambo didn’t find the back of the net, but his five assists meant he was able to keep the offense going. Cory Vitarelli also had two goals and three assists on the night. Kevin Crowley contributed two goals and two assists, one goal coming on an odd consecutive penalty shot opportunity. Rochester had two players in the penalty box already and was assessed two more penalties, resulting in a double penalty shot.

Philadelphia’s Zach Higgins makes a save. (Photo credit: Tracey Happold-Brown)

Knighthawks’ goalie Steve Fryer stopped the ball 51 times. A decent number of those shots were rapid fire shots as the Wings repeatedly picked up the rebounds and pummeled the goal cage again.

Trevor Baptiste continued his scoring campaign by netting the first goal of the game to get the fans screaming. He also went 15-20 on faceoffs where he continued to dominate his opponents.

The Wings have a quick turnaround this week as they meet the New York Riptide on Friday in Philadelphia. The Rochester Knighthawks do not play again until January 31st when they take on the Buffalo Bandits in what many believe will be another rough game with a lot of potential penalty minutes.