NLL: Redeemed Eric Penney shines in Wings’ OT win

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The Philadelphia Wings scraped by with a 12-11 overtime win at Wells Fargo Center in a rare Saturday afternoon home game that left them with the win against the Georgia Swarm.

The odds were not in Philadelphia’s favor with Covid hitting the team hard. Ian Llord, Steph Charbonneau, Ryan Wagner and Cory Vitarelli were all missing, so they had to count on calling players up, relying on others, and rearranging the whole defense. Then, Saturday morning, starting goaltender Higgins received a positive Covid test. All of this with the threat of Lyle Thompson coming to town left many people uncomfortable in Philadelphia.

However, both the city and its players are used to uncomfortable. In fact, no one would have faulted this piecemeal defense if they fell apart, but the Wings did just the opposite. The players figured out a way to make it work.

Signed on Thursday, Eric Penney flew in and stood in and out in goal. The offense came back after blanking in the second quarter. They ended up fighting back in the second half where they kept pace with Georgia in the third and fourth before Blaze Riorden struck 15 seconds into overtime, sending a laser past Mike Poulin.

Riorden was grinning from ear to ear in his post-game press conference, giving much of the credit to Penney.

“I have a soft spot for goalies and [Penney] came in and flew across the country and stepped into a big role and he deserved that one for sure. Coach was not happy with a couple of our decisions so to get a win for our team and this guy was super special.”

One of those decisions head coach Paul Day was not happy about happened at the end of the game. The Wings had a chance to run out the clock and hold the ball until regulation was over. They would have walked off with a regulation win. Instead, Matt Rambo took an ill-advised shot that resulted in the Swarm running down the field and scoring with six seconds left in regulation.

“We didn’t have a timeout left because we threw that flag,” Day explained. “The decision in lacrosse is actually not to shoot the ball. But it was a good learning experience for [Rambo] tonight.”

Fortunately for the Wings, a quick faceoff win by Trevor Baptiste to start the overtime period allowed the Wings to call a timeout. They set up on offense where Riorden buried the ball and secured the win.

Georgia continuously fought back after the first quarter left the Swarm scoreless. Lyle Thompson did what Lyle Thompson does. He scored a lot – five goals to be exact. He also added three assists. He scored when he was not being covered. He scored with several men on him. He played defense when he needed to.  If he could have willed his team to victory, he would have.

Thompson was aided by former Wing Jordan Hall. Although Hall only scored once, his five assists resulted in more goals being scored.

As stated earlier, Penney deserves recognition for coming to Philadelphia and jumping into the cage. Penney played five season for the Vancouver Warriors’ franchise in a period in which they struggled with poor performances. Penney sprouted an 11-34 record in his time there, but was released in November.

Against Georgia, he made 50 saves and kept the Wings in the game. He didn’t have much time to jump into his role with his new team, but played like he’d been playing in Philadelphia for years.

“Sometimes you’re just seeing the ball real well,” he said. “I came in and challenged myself after being released. Getting that second opportunity to get back in this league, I didn’t want to take it for granted. I came out and tried my hardest. And we were trying to go full-tilt right off the start.

“It’s a lot nicer to have [the crowd] on your side. I’ve played in this arena as a visitor before, and when you’re walking back to your net, they’re not cheering you on as much. But it’s definitely good to have this crowd behind us.”

Penney definitely proved his worth tonight as the Wings held on and clawed their way to a victory.

The Wings next take on Albany at home in Philadelphia next weekend while Georgia next takes on Buffalo at Keybank Center.