The Halifax Thunderbirds head on the road this week in search of their second consecutive win when they wrap up their season series against the Philadelphia Wings on Friday night. Opening face-off is at 8:00 p.m. AT.
Head to Head
The Thunderbirds are looking to avenge an overtime loss to the Wings earlier this season in Halifax. The game was a run-and-gun affair, with the visitors coming out on top by a 16-15 score, coming up with the game-winner in the extra frame.
In Wells Fargo, the Thunderbirds have won each of the last two seasons, with the team looking to move back to .500 for the first time since December, they’ll be looking to keep their streak rolling in enemy territory.
Scouting the Thunderbirds
Since returning to the lineup, Randy Staats has continued to rack up points, and with five games under his belt this year, the righty has posted 28 points (5.6 PPG). Unfortunately, the veteran has been placed on Injured Reserve ahead of this matchup.
The Birds will turn to Clarke Petterson (13G, 16A) and Ryan Benesch (18G, 10A) who sit as the team’s top two scorers. Benesch hit another major milestone in his Hall-of-Fame career last weekend, scoring five goals to surpass Colin Doyle for fifth all-time in goals (528). It was the second five-plus goal outing of his year and he currently leads the Thunderbirds in goals.
Austin Shanks (8G, 17A) returned to the lineup and had a five-point night. He’ll be crucial to the offensive production going forward, as will Captain Cody Jamieson (6G, 18A). Expect Cole Kirst (1G, 7A) to factor back into the lineup with Staats out. The rookie is averaging two points per game so far this year, but he’ll also receive an uptick in touches with the opportunity.
In the team’s last game against Philadelphia, the Halifax offence had a massive game, including a six-goal, eight-point night from Benesch, six-point efforts from Staats and Jamieson, and a five-point outing from Shanks.
Jake Withers is putting in another year to remember, posting video game numbers weekly to open the year. Over the previous two games alone, he has three points, 42 loose balls, and 10 caused turnovers. For the season, he has nine points, 107 loose balls, and 16 CTOs. He’s averaging nearly 18 LBs a game and is currently on pace for 321, which would blow the NLL’s single-season loose ball record (246) out of the water.
Warren Hill put his best foot forward against Rochester this past weekend, turning away a season-high 42 shots – he also stopped 10 transition shots, according to Ty Merrow. The Thunderbirds' starter holds a 10.58 goals-against average and a .759 save percentage.
Scouting the Wings
The Wings come into this game on a two-game skid, with their offence being held to 9 and 11 goals, respectively. Their last game against San Diego was a comeback effort that came up just short at the end.
In Halifax back in December, Mitch Jones and Joe Resetarits combined for 15 points to lead their team to a victory. The pair also leads the Wings in scoring with 36 and 31 points so far this year.
Philadelphia will also have the pair of Blaze Riorden (7G, 2A) and Holden Cattoni (3G, 7A) who missed a chunk of the early portion of the season due to injuries. Both will play big parts in this game. As will Ben McIntosh (8G, 14A). The talented righty creates a dynamic duo on the righty side along with Resetarits.
The Wings also converted on three transition markers during the last meeting. Alex Pace, Isaiah Davis-Allen, and Marcus Minichello converted on those chances. They’ve also got a young pair of transition players in Scott Dominey and Mike McCannell who like to get out and run to create quick-strike offence.
Zach Higgins will be between the pipes again on Friday. The Philadelphia goaltender had one of the wildest outings of any goaltender this season, allowing 15 goals but still getting the victory with a 53-save effort in Halifax. The Thunderbirds will have to look to get to the veteran early to keep him out of a rhythm.
One of the focuses going into the first meeting was the face-off advantage that the Thunderbirds carried. Jake Withers proved to be a handful for the Wings, winning 31 of 34 draws (91 percent). But Philadelphia was able to convert on their touches to negate that advantage. The Thunderbirds’ offence will look to flip the script this time around.
Halifax currently sits as the best volume-shooting team in the league. According to NLL.com’s Adam Levi, the Birds average 80 shot attempts per game and hold teams to just 63 – both bests across the NLL.
With Warren Hill coming off his best outing of the season to date, he and the defence will try and carry that same effort over to this weekend. They’ll be aiming to make a statement after allowing their highest goals-against total so far this year to Philly just a few weeks ago.
The game will come down to the Thunderbirds making good on those extra touches from the face-off stripe and their defence and Hill coming up with timely stops to keep the crowd out of the game.
Fans in Canada looking to catch the Thunderbirds in action can catch Friday’s game on TSN+. Thunderbirds fans in the United States can tune into ESPN+.