Everything the Wings needed to work on, they did.
Against the Toronto Rock on Saturday, the National Lacrosse League team addressed their slow start by scoring four goals within the first four minutes of play. They went 3 for 4 on the power play after starting the season 2 for 17. Through three quarters, the Wings had a four-goal lead and looked like they’d get their first win of the season.
But a disastrous start to the fourth quarter gave the Wings a 12-13 loss to Toronto and presented new concerns heading into Friday’s game against the Rochester Knighthawks.
“Obviously, it was the start we wanted. We’re a young group that needs to learn how to win but obviously, we lost three defensemen in the third and fourth quarter," said coach Paul Day after the loss Saturday. “As men, they did everything we wanted them to do, we just didn’t get the win.”
Injuries can’t be predicted or prevented. The Wings played with just seven defensemen for much of the second half of Saturday’s loss, three of whom were not 100 percent.
Dylan Evans, Zach Reid and Anthony Joaquim are key starters, but the team was virtually without them. Evans was a game-time scratch. Even though Reid played, it was clear he was a shell of himself -- one of the Rock’s top scorers, Tom Schreiber, glided past him to score the Toronto’s fourth consecutive goal in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 10.
During the Rock’s comeback, the Wings assistant general manager Landon Miller could be heard giving a mouthful in the press box with every goal the Rock scored to eventually take the lead away from the Wings. Frustration and anger were felt around the Wells Fargo Center as the Wings dropped to 0-6 when the team could easily be 4-2.
This week the Wings will have a different task. Rochester gets their scoring from multiple places. Knighthawks forwards Cory Vitarelli and Cody Jamieson btoh have eight goals on the season, and both players scored three of those against the Wings last month. Rochester won’t be the double-edged sword of the Rock’s Schreiber and Adam Jones but it will be close given the amount of success they had against the Wings before.
As the Wings gear up for the second game of a four-game homestand, their ability to address slow starts will be tested. Last time the Wings faced Rochester, the Knighthawks jetted got off to a five-goal lead en route to a 13-9 win.
On Saturday after the loss, Day said he told his players last week not to allow the “system” to affect their play.
Those words of encouragement along with the team playing together for another week produced a better start vs. Toronto.
Matt Rambo and Kevin Crowley are “new but we wanted to attack right away and I think we attacked right away, and we did all game," Day said on Saturday. "As horrible as this feels, we gained a lot this weekend, we learned a lot, and we’re a better team.”
Kevin Crowley had a hand in 10 of the Wings' 12 points against the Rock. He echoed the message of the team continuing to emphasize fast starts and fewer turnovers.