By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/20/08
A season of promise has begun with a second impressive victory.
The Philadelphia Wings jumped out to a 13-7 lead after three periods and held on Friday night to defeat the defending National Lacrosse League champion Rochester Nighthawks, 15-14, to improve to 2-0.
Athan Iannucci, who already has 10 goals this year, scored five goals and added four assists for the Wings while Jake Bergey added four goals and three assists before a crowd of 9,248 at the Wachovia Center.
Goaltender Rob Blasdell posted 37 saves for Philadelphia, which continues its home stand Saturday against the Buffalo Bandits at 7:30 p.m. at the Wachovia Center.
John Christmas, named the league’s Transition Player of the Week for helping the Wings defeat the Chicago Shamrox, 19-11, in their opener, said the team is utilizing its speed and athleticism this year under new coach Dave Huntley.
“We’re 2-0 right now and we have a totally different team this year,” said the Ardmore native and graduate of Lower Merion High. “We have a fast-paced team, and I think it’s the way we’re going to play all season.”
Christmas, who had five assists and scooped up nine loose balls in the opener, said the Wings are primed to make the playoffs after a recent drought.
“We are looking obviously to make the playoffs and we haven’t done that in five years,” he said. “Coach Huntley is great and has a lot of new tricks up his sleeve. He has everyone’s attention and everyone’s respect.
“He has transition guys playing both ends, Usually, you have a defensive shift and offensive guys. We have guys to play both ends, and that allows us to have a great transition game.
“As long as we buy in to what he has to offer, we’re alright.”
In Friday’s win over the Nighthawks, the Wings scored seven on seven of 12 power play opportunities and out shot the Nighthawks, 67-51. Merrick Thomson added three goals and three assists for the Wings while Jamie Rooney had two goals and two assists and Kyle Sweeney added one goal.
“Coach Huntley was a great and refreshing change,” said Sweeney, a Springfield (Delco) graduate. “He takes advantage of our athletes and he has us fly all over the floor.
“We keep the other team on the floor as long as we can and try to get them more tired than we are. We are a well-conditioned bunch. We have a bunch of sick (motivated) athletes and it’s a fun way to play the game.”
Sweeney said the Wings need to remain focused as they conclude their three-game home stand and prepare for their first road game Feb. 15 at the Colorado Mammoth.
“This is my fourth year on the team,” he said. “We never started 2-0, and we never won our opener. It’s a good start, beating a quality team like Rochester. But we can’t look too much into it.
“Buffalo is a big strong team and hopefully we can take advantage of some of our athletes. We have to be real fast on the back end and keep them on the floor.”
“Beating Rochester, the champions from last year, is great for our confidence,” added Christmas. “We kind of gave up some late goals and made it closer than it really was. We have two tough ones coming up. It’s a cliché but we have to take it one game at a time.”