NLL: Last-second heroics from Rambo lifts Philadelphia over Calgary

Steph Charbonneau, Trevor Baptiste and Alex Pace converge on Curtis Dickson as he attempts to beat Zach Higgins. Calgary Roughnecks vs. Philadelphia Wings. (Photo credit: Cliff McCaig)

In their first ever visit to Scotiabank Saddledome, the Philadelphia Wings must have wondered if they had shown up to the wrong venue. With no sign of the hosts, Philadelphia made themselves at home and patiently waited and wondered if their late-night date would appear. Hot from the YYC airport, the hometown Roughnecks piled off the team bus and right into their second game in 24 hours. At 10:26 p.m. ET, Tyler Burton and Trevor Baptiste faced off and finally got this Week 5 matchup underway.

In a fiercely contested game, Zach Higgins and Christian Del Bianco stole the show with an impressive display of goaltending. Late in the fourth with the scored tied at seven, Philly forward Matt Rambo fired a bounce shot that eluded Del Bianco lifting the Wings to an 8-7 win. Rambo’s goal came with just 1.8 seconds left and was his second goal of the game.

“We went a little six-on-five because there were only 26 seconds left so we’d hold the ball till seven (seconds). It was a little seal down for me to come over. We had a lot of different options but I felt like I was in good range to shoot the ball,” said Rambo.

Philadelphia played a gritty road game never letting Calgary establish any momentum. Kevin Crowley led the Wings figuring in on seven of Philly’s eight goals while Trevor Baptiste dominated the face off circle winning 14 of 19 draws.

The message to Matt Rambo and the rest of the Wings was clear. Pounce on the road weary Roughnecks and keep the tempo of the game high.

“It’s a new week for us. We lost our first week and just to get out there and play like a team – play fast, play hard. We had good vibes all week so we just wanted to carry that into the game. We know that they were coming off a back-to-back and everything so just keep playing fast,” Rambo said.

Trevor Baptiste and Tyler Burton tangle on the faceoff. (Photo credit: Cliff McCaig)

Zach Higgins was stellar between the pipes earning him the Philadelphia game ball. After allowing four goals in the opening quarter, Higgins stifled the Roughnecks’ attack surrendering just three more the rest of the way. Mimicking Higgins, Christian Del Bianco played a nearly identical game. Both goalies faced 55 shots with Rambo’s late marker being the only difference between the two.

While doubleheaders are a fact of life in the NLL, Saturday night’s game between the Philadelphia Wings and Calgary Roughnecks certainly brings to light concerns with the logistics of a doubleheader as well as the fairness of competition. Saturday night’s game in San Diego ended at 12:30 ET, giving the Roughnecks approximately 17.5 hours to get back home and ready for warm-up. A brief scan of scheduled flights from San Diego to Calgary yielded limited options forcing the Roughnecks to opt for an early afternoon 3 ½ hour flight. By comparison, the Wings were in Calgary on Friday for an evening practice and then settled into their regular game day routine. When the travel weary Roughnecks finally got to the ‘Dome, on top of an altered warm-up, they were given a delay of game penalty. In this instance, that delay of game penalty led to a Philadelphia goal which turned out to be the difference in a one-goal game.

Along with the loss, the Roughnecks suffered a devastating blow to their team during the second quarter. While chasing down a loose ball, Jesse King slammed hard into the boards after a collision with Philly’s Steph Charbonneau. After lying motionless for a few minutes, King was helped to his feet and assisted to the locker room holding his right arm tight to his body. Charbonneau was assessed a five-minute major, but the referees determined there was no intent to injure, so Charbonneau stayed in the game. As of yet, no update on King’s injury status was available.

Philadelphia’s Cory Vitarelli celebrates a goal against the Calgary Roughnecks (Photo credit: Cliff McCaig)

The Roughnecks were led by Curtis Dickson who tallied three goals and an assist. Dan Taylor chipped in with two goals of his own while also adding an assist. Calgary continues to get a great effort from their defense. Zach Currier vacuumed up 14 loose balls while teammate Tyson Bell played a terrific game including 13 loosies and a beautiful individual effort goal. Despite having two weeks off already, Calgary will get another three weeks off before they face Rochester at home on January 18th.

Kevin Crowley paced the attack for the Wings scoring a hat trick and adding four assists. Trevor Baptiste scooped 14 loose balls and scored his first NLL goal. Philadelphia will continue their season on the road as they travel to Uniondale for a game against the New York Riptide on January 4th.