Sometimes a team finds itself playing against its schedule as much as its opponent. The Wings faced a tough challenge Saturday night as they hosted the NLL’s best team on the second night of back to back games, and fell to the undefeated Edmonton Rush, 8-6.
Despite a strong defensive effort that kept a potent Rush offense under 10 goals, the Wings picked up their second loss in as many nights after returning home from a 20-10 defeat in Toronto that head coach Blane Harrison called "embarrassing."
"It’s not the easiest schedule in the world, first and foremost, but that’s what you sign up for," said Wings defender Brett Manney. "You know that going into it when they put out the schedule so you’ve just got to man up and do your job."
Edmonton (6-0) took a commanding 6-2 lead into halftime, and the Wings (3-5) never recovered. Riley Loewen, Curtis Knight, and Robert Church led Edmonton with two goals apiece. Loewen added two assists for the Rush, who have yet to play back-to-back games this season. This weekend's consecutive contests were the third and final back-to-back set for the Wings, each one involving travel between games.
"The team challenged themselves to put up a better effort against the best team in the league," said Harrison. "We’re a banged up team right now.
"We got some nice looks, we just couldn’t find the twine."
The Wings defense limited the Rush to just a pair of second-half goals, and twice cut the deficit to two. The Rush, playing on fresh legs, moved the ball on offense with greater ease, and had visibly more left in the tank late to stave off a Philadelphia comeback attempt. Pat Saunders scored for the Wings to make it 6-4 early in the fourth quarter, but a pair of unassisted goals by Knight and Church gave the Rush enough of a cushion.
"We came back tonight and held a very strong team to under nine, which you think you would win," said Harrison. "But the offense is not clicking right now. We’re kind of banged up a little bit and it showed."
Kevin Crowley led the Wings offense with two goals and an assist, while Jordan Hall, who ranks fifth in the NLL with 16 goals, sat out with an injury. The Wings will have a week to lick their wounds and to try and get the offense healthy before travelling to face the Buffalo Bandits.
"I think after last night, after the effort and our performance, we wanted to come out and knew that we wanted a good weekend," said Manney. "We especially wanted to come out in the last 30 minutes to build on something and go into a tough Buffalo Barn next week."
The Wings retired Jake Bergey’s number 66 in a ceremony prior to the game.
"There are not many people that can say they were lucky enough to play their whole career in their hometown, but I was very fortunate," said Bergey, the son of Eagles linebacker Bill Bergey, who wore the same number 66.
During his 10-year career, Bergey amassed 256 goals and 301 assists, and helped the Wings to NLL Champion’s Cups in 1998 and 2001.