NLL: Riorden’s OT game winner sends Wings to playoffs

Philadelphia Wings vs Georgia Swarm, April 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Kyle Hess)

Blaze Riorden saved the Philadelphia Wings on Saturday night, but not as a goaltender, of course – this isn’t field lacrosse. Riorden’s game winning goal in overtime allowed the Wings to fly over the Georgia Swarm to clinch the final NLL playoff spot.

The Wings will cross over to the West Division to face the San Diego Seals this Saturday, May 7th at 10 p.m.

There are so many things to focus on in Philadelphia’s win. The Wings have struggled when they go down in the count, but not on Saturday. Philadelphia was outshot in every quarter except overtime; yet they managed to pull off the victory. They were down a man in overtime; and it made no difference to Zach Higgins who held strong.

And then there is the story of Riorden’s game on Saturday.

Riorden could be called a Swarm buster. He scored the overtime game winning goal on January 8th of this year, also against the Swarm. Most people know that he is not the biggest offensive threat that Philadelphia has; however, it seemed that Georgia forgot this as Riorden split a double team and launched himself at the goal. The shot went in; and he proved that some things can happen twice.

What is head scratching, is that Riorden scored the last two goals for Philadelphia and did not earn a star of the game. Those honours went to Kiel Matisz for his six assist game, Ben McIntosh for his three goals and one assist, and Lyle Thompson with his two goals and three assists.

The game was close every quarter. Georgia outscored Philadelphia 3-2 in the first. They tied 3-3 in the second. Philadelphia had the 3-2 edge in the third, and both teams scored twice in the fourth to send the game to overtime where Zach Higgins continued to stand on his head. It’s the fifth consecutive one-goal game between Philadelphia and Georgia.

Higgins, rock solid in the game, was credited with 53 saves on the night. Mike Poulin had 32 for Georgia.

After the game, Riorden spent a short period of time reflecting on the win and how it came to be.

“The more battlefield tested team won,” he said. He also credited Paul Day with having a plan that the players are successful with – when they listen to him as well as execute it.

Looking ahead to the upcoming playoff game, Riorden quipped, “every week is a reset. We have to believe in ourselves.”

The Wings might be hoping for an overtime game next weekend against San Diego. And while it might drive the fans nuts, Philadelphia has good reason to want the game to end up there. They are 4-0 in overtime games this season. With Trevor Baptiste’s powerful control of the game, Paul Day can quickly call a timeout and set up the a plan.

For Georgia, this is the first season in the last five that they will not make it to the post season.