When it comes to the intensity of the New York versus Philadelphia rivalry, it applies to all sports. Whether it’s Giants/Eagles, Islanders/Flyers, or Knicks/76ers, things can get pretty intense on the field, ice or court and there always seems to be a war of words among the fans. There has also been an intense New York/Philadelphia rivalry in the National Lacrosse League over the years.
The rivalry that dates back to when the New York Saints and New York Titans battled the Philadelphia Wings is renewed on Saturday night when the New York Riptide host the Wings at Nassau Coliseum (Bleacher Report Live 7: 30 pm).
“I expect the game to be very intense on Saturday,” said Riptide forward John Ranagan. “They’re a tough physical group with highly skilled players. We will need to make sure we are ready for a battle from the start.”
While this will be the first official meeting between the two East Division rivals, they met in a pre-season game at the Wings’ practice facility and let’s just say that it was a physical contest.
“We had a pretty heated exhibition game with them so I don’t think they’ll be any love lost,” said Riptide General Manager and Head Coach Regy Thorpe. We have a lot of respect for (General Manager and Head Coach) Paul Day and the Philadelphia organization. They have a long history and tradition there.”
Back in the day when the NLL was the Major Indoor Lacrosse League (MILL), the Saints and Wings enjoyed some memorable matchups and the atmosphere was always amazing. In fact, when I was the radio announcer for the Saints, I felt what the rivalry was like first hand. I was doing a game in 1996 and when I started the broadcast by saying “From the Spectrum in Philadelphia, this is New York Saints Lacrosse”, a Wings fan sitting in the row directly in front of the press box turned around and said “Bleep New York”.
The hope is that this Saturday is the beginning of a new chapter in the NLL version of the New York/Philadelphia rivalry.
“I don’t know how much kindle it needs,” said Riptide captain Dan MacRae. “I guess that’s where it came from. We’re just out there looking to get our first win in franchise history. We’re excited for the challenge ahead. I don’t think our guys will need any extra motivation but it’s there from the pre-season.”
The Riptide enter the game with an 0-4 record and coming off of an 11-4 loss to the Saskatchewan Rush last Saturday in the home opener at NYCB Live. Connor Kelly leads the Riptide in scoring with five goals and eight assists for thirteen points. Tyler Digby and Dan Lomas each have 12 points while Travis Longboat is fourth in rookie scoring with two goals and seven assists for nine points.
The Riptide will be looking for a complete sixty-minute effort against the Wings (1-1) in all three phases.
“We need balance,” said Thorpe. “We need to have stops on the defensive end and we need to cash in on the offensive end.”
The third phase is in transition and that includes the face-off battle which will be quite a tough task on Saturday. The Riptide’s Alex Woodall has a stiff challenge going up against the Wings’ Trevor Baptiste who is one of the best face-off specialists in the world. So far this season, he has won 32 out of 41 face-offs.
“Trevor Baptiste is crushing it at face-off so we have to just battle with him,” said Thorpe. “He’s going to be a handful on Saturday night.”
The Wings leading scorer is forward Kevin Crowley who has five goals and six assists for eleven points. Crowley is no stranger to Long Island having played college lacrosse at Stony Brook and he also currently plays for the New York Lizards of Major League Lacrosse. Goalie Zach Higgins has a goals against average of 9.59 to go along with 83 saves.
The original Philadelphia Wings moved to New England in 2014 while the current Wings were an expansion team last season. This season, they’ve added some pieces and they will certainly present a challenge for the Riptide.
“They went out into free agency and got a couple of key players,” said Thorpe. They beefed up their defense and their offense. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. They’re playing good lacrosse. They’re much improved from last year.”
The game figures to be a much watch for a couple of reasons. First, the Riptide are hungry for that first win. And second, it’s the start of a new rivalry or the latest chapter of an old rivalry when you consider that the torch has been passed from the Saints and Titans to the Riptide this season as box lacrosse has made a return to Long Island.
And there is already bad blood between these two teams.
“We’re excited to play an in-conference game against Philadelphia, a team that we played in the pre-season at their practice facility where it was a spirited affair,” said MacRae. “To get them back in our home barn makes for a big matchup this weekend.”
The last time that the Philadelphia Wings played in New York was 2008 when they beat the New York Titans 20-13 at Madison Square Garden. It was in 2007 when the Wings were last in the Nassau Coliseum and on that evening, they beat the Titans 16-11. Now, it’s the Riptide’s turn to be a part of this historic rivalry and coming away with a win would mean even more history.
It would mean their first ever win.