The Wings clinched a playoff berth in dramatic fashion against the Toronto Rock on Saturday when Jordan Hall scored a game-winning overtime goal just one minute, one second into the extra period.
Hall took a Drew Westervelt pass at the top of the crease and used a spin move to shake defenders before finding the back of the net and securing the 10-9 victory. It was Hall’s second goal of the night, and likely the biggest shot of his life, but the transition player was more excited about his team making the playoffs.
"[Making the playoffs] is the end goal," said Hall. "It doesn’t really matter where you are when you enter the playoffs. Everybody is so close. Toronto is the No. 1 team and we just knocked them off.”
The rubber match win against Toronto gave the Wings a 2-1 season series edge over the East division champion Rock, who still maintain the best record in the NLL at 10-6. The Wings (7-8) closed out their regular season home schedule on a high note, but nearly squandered a late one-goal lead on a potentially devastating mental lapse.
With 1:12 remaining in regulation and holding on tight to a 9-8 lead, the Wings were called for having too many men in play. Because the penalty occurred in the final two minutes, the Rock were given a penalty shot. Toronto’s Kasey Beirnes tied the game when his top-shelf penalty shot beat Brandon Miller and locked things up at 9-9.
"Obviously, that was a letdown," Hall said. "There was a little bit of confusion and then you find out it was a penalty shot and your heart sinks even more because they’ve got so many guys who are talented on [penalty shots.]"
The penalty shot beat an otherwise outstanding Miller, who made 48 saves on the day and recorded an even more impressive milestone. Early in the first quarter, the 13-year-veteran goaltender made his 4,000 career save. Miller wasn’t even aware of the milestone until he was informed of it after the game.
"I guess that means I’m old," said Miller. "To do it as a Wing was my childhood dream, so that’s pretty special."
Miller and the Wings defense kept the potent Rock at bay and limited the usually high-scoring visitors to nine goals on 57 shots. Despite the physical play, a disciplined effort kept the penalty boxes mostly empty.
Toronto scored the game’s only power play goal when Biernes converted during a Westervelt roughing penalty in the second quarter. The goal gave the Rock a 4-2 advantage — the largest lead by either team all game.
"That’s a tight lacrosse game," said head coach Johnny Mouradian. "It was tight at both ends. There was no goonery out there, there was nobody looking for fights. There was some intense pushing and shoving but I think the referees did a marvelous job of letting us play."
Wings forward Brendan Mundorf, who missed much of the season due to injury, recorded a game-high six points on two goals and four assists. Kevin Buchanan also contributed two goals and added two assists.
The Wings will conclude their regular season on the road against the Washington Stealth on Saturday, April 20. They will most likely start the playoffs on the road, but after a season in which they suffered five straight losses, the Wings are confident about their chances in the postseason.
"We’re healthy," said Mouradian. "That’s our full roster and that’s really important. When we have a full roster, we’re a darn good lacrosse club."