NLL: Wings fall to old friends in Rochester

Saturday night the Philadelphia Wings fell to 0-2 on the young NLL season with a 13-9 loss to the Rochester Knighthawks. The 8144 fans at Blue Cross Arena were excited to see the rivalry between the Wings and the Knighthawks renewed.

After having to sit through Rochester’s opening ceremonies, the Wings came out slow and trailed 5-0 after the first quarter. Cody Jamieson and Cory Vitarelli each scored twice for the Knighthawks.

“We came off a bye week and the holiday season with everyone at home but there are 1000 excuses,” said Wings’ forward Blaze Riorden, who played in his first game of the season. “We have to be better next week. We face a good Toronto team and we have to come out strong and not put ourselves in these holes that we have to dig ourselves out of.”

Philadelphia started to rebound in the second quarter as the defense tightened up and the offence finally dented the twine behind goaltender Angus Goodleaf. Chris Cloutier started the frame’s scoring and Riorden ended it, but the Knighthawks scored three in the middle to lead at the half 8-2.

In the third, the teams alternated goals three times. Philadelphia was finally able to reply to the Knighthawks’ force. Cloutier replied to Austin Shanks; Vaughn Harris replied to Joe Resetarits and a power play goal from Cloutier equalized Brandon Robinson’s second of the game. Cloutier’s goal came with one second left in the quarter.

Down 11-5 to start the third, the Wings seemed to build on Cloutier’s last second goal as Brett Hickey and Harris would net two early goals to reduce the deficit to four. The Wings kept the pressure on the Rochester defense, getting better opportunities, but Goodleaf stood tall to keep the Wings at bay. Vitarelli scored his third of the game but former Knighthawk Josh Currier replied 15 seconds later. Cody Jamieson scored a somewhat controversial empty net goal late in the game to complete his hat trick. Hickey added one more for Philly but Goodleaf and his defense walked away with their first victory of the season.

“It’s all in the prep work. It starts in practice,” said a frustrated Cloutier after the game. “We have to come ready to play. The last two games we got off to slow starts and that’s really killed us. We have to be ready to play off the opening whistle. We can’t give teams five goal leads like that. If we can get in the game early we’ll be in good shape.”

The Wings started Davide DiRuscio, who allowed seven goals on 30 shots in 26 minutes before being pulled in favour of Doug Buchan, who allowed five goals on 21 shots. The two split time in the Wings’ opener as well, with Buchan starting that one before giving way to DiRuscio. Each goalie has fared better coming in for relief work so far as the Wings seem to settle into their game in the second half.

Philadelphia outshot Rochester 59-52, picked up 81 loose balls to Rochester’s 78, and Trevor Baptiste won the faceoff battle with Jake Withers 15-12.

Cody Jamieson (3G/3A) and Cory Vitarelli (3G/1A) led the way for the Knighthawks offensively.

Chris Cloutier (3G/2A), Blaze Riorden (1G/4A) and Brett Hickey (2G/2A) led the way for the Wings. Vaughn Harris also had two goals in the defeat.

The Wings are still looking for their first victory of the season. They visit the Toronto Rock this coming Friday, January 4th. The old Wings franchise had a hard time winning in Toronto (save the 2001 championship), so the new regime will be hoping to turn that around.