NLL: Wings surpass 2019 win count with 14-6 victory over Riptide

Cory Vitarelli scores his 200th career goal. (Photo credit: Tracey Happold-Brown)

Friday night the Philadelphia Wings (5-2) defeated the New York Riptide (1-6) 14-6 in front of 7,183 fans at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Local Heroes Appreciation Night.

The focus this night for the Riptide would be on Brett Hickey and Zach Higgins who have been on fire. In the last three games Higgins has let in a total of only 18 goals, while the offense has netted 33. Hickey has scored nine of those in the last two games including five in this game.

The Wings would get the game rolling early as Brett Hickey would feed Kevin Crowley in front for the game’s first goal. Crowley took the pass and went to the opposite side of the defender and as he was bumped off his feet he beat Alex Buque far side. Kiel Matisz would collect his first of the night just two and a half minutes later to give the Wings a two-goal lead.

Ryan Fournier (shorthanded) and Tyler Digby would find rope just 1:02 apart to tie the game at two. Wagner and Hickey would give Philadelphia their two-goal lead back, but Dan Lomas would make it a 4-3 game as the first quarter ended.

Jean Luc-Chetner would score on the power play to start the second quarter. Blaze Riorden and Tyler Digby traded goals and the half ended with the teams tied at five.

The second quarter saw some stellar saves by both goaltenders to keep the game as close as it was.  But with 10 seconds remaining, Anthony Joaquim was called for a slashing penalty but Tyler Digby’s helmet came off and continued play and was assessed a minor for illegal equipment. As per the NLL Rulebook:  Rule 91:  HELMET LOST DURING PLAY When   a   player   loses   his   helmet, the player must immediately either re-assemble his helmet while in the game or leave the floor.   When a player in possession of the ball loses his helmet he must immediately release the ball by passing or shooting. Digby was then assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty for slamming the penalty box door and glass.

The Philadelphia Wings celebrate. (Photo credit: Laura Kupsey)

As the second half started so did the Wings’ offense as they outscored the Riptide 9-1. Cory Vitarelli scored his first of three on the night 23 seconds into the third to give the Wings a lead they would not relinquish. It was his 200th career goal. Numbers 201 and 202 quickly followed as he had a hat trick in the quarter. 

The Wings’ defense and Zach Higgins would go on lockdown mode and keep the Riptide off the board for the last 24:18 of play.

Philadelphia Wings’ Zach Higgins. (Photo credit: Tracey Happold-Brown)

New York outshot Philadelphia 57-53 and picked up 63 loose balls to Philadelphia’s 55.

In a classic battle at faceoff, Trevor Baptiste (13-24) bested Alex Woodall (11-24). In their first meeting Baptiste came out on top as well winning 17 of 31.  This is building to be some classic matchups between these two specialists.

Philadelphia was 3- 6 on the man advantage, New York was 1-1 and collected a shorthanded goal as well.

Brett Hickey (5G/1A) led the Wings’ offense. Cory Vitarelli (3G/1A), Kevin Crowley (1G/5A) and Kiel Matisz (2G/4A) chipped in as well.

Zach Higgins collected his fifth win of the season stopping 51 of 57 shots, and lowered his GAA to 8.38 and raised his SVPCT to .835, while Alex Buque stopped 33 of 47 shots for the loss. Gowah Abrams played the final 4:43 and stopped all six shots he faced.

Philadelphia is only a half game out of first behind New England, and hold a two-game lead over the Georgia Swarm. The season is still early and they’ve already surpassed their win total from last season.

Philadelphia will host Georgia on Friday January 31st at 7 p.m. In their first meeting in Georgia the Swarm doubled up Philadelphia 12-6.

 The Riptide also lost 16-11 loss to San Diego the following night. They’re off until February 8 when they visit Calgary.