When adversity struck throughout the 2021-22 season, the Philadelphia Wings found a way to persevere through those tough times.

The Wings lost six starters in January with COVID-19. Goaltender Zach Higgins broke his nose after a shot went through his mask in December, and after he recovered, he contracted COVID-19 and missed a month total.

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The team went on a four-game losing streak leading up to the trade deadline on March 16, forcing head coach and general manager Paul Day to move 27-year-old defenseman Anthony Joaquim to the Colorado Mammoth and 31-year-old forward Brett Hickey to the San Diego Seals.

Still, the Wings never folded. Following the trade deadline, they won four of their final six games. Forward Blaze Riorden’s shorthanded goal sealed a dramatic 11-10 overtime victory over the Georgia Swarm on the final day of the regular season and clinched the Wings a playoff berth for the first time in the history of the modern iteration of the franchise.

“We have a flair for the dramatic, as they would say,” forward Kevin Crowley said. “We were up two goals with a minute left and let the team come back in to go to overtime, but Blaze made a huge play and split the double team, made the crease dive, and put it top-corner.

“That’s the kind of team we have. Anyone could step up in any moment. I think that’s what’s gonna make us dangerous in our playoff run.”

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Now, the Wings (9-9) are set to face off against the top-seeded Seals (10-8) in the quarterfinals of the 2022 National Lacrosse League (NLL) playoffs at 10:30 p.m. Saturday in San Diego. It will stream on ESPN+. Although the Wings play in the East Conference, as the wild-card, they will play the top seed in the West Conference.

The top four teams in the East and the top three teams in the West earn playoff spots. The final berth in the West is a wild-card spot awarded to the team with highest winning percentage among the remaining seven teams in the NLL.

Regular season rematch

The Wings played two West Conference teams this season, one of which was the Seals. On April 8, the Wings defeated the Seals in overtime, 13-12, after forward Ben McIntosh scored 30 seconds into the extra period. He dazzled in that game, registering four goals and an assist.

McIntosh, the 2015 NLL rookie of the year and a two-time All-American at Drexel, was traded to the Wings on July 31, 2020, from the Saskatchewan Rush and finally made his debut this season after last year’s COVID-19 pause. This season, he led the team with 31 goals.

“He’s a massive competitor,” Crowley said. “He brings an edge to his game and to the Wings. That is why he’s been so elite in this league and the reason he’s got three championships under his belt at the professional level.”

The Wings’ regular season overtime win against the Seals marked their fourth overtime game of the season at the time. They went on to play five total, going 5-0.

The Seals finished the regular season with a 10-8 record, earning the top seed in the West via tiebreaker. The Colorado Mammoth and the Calgary Roughnecks also finished 10-8.

Forward Wesley Berg led the Seals with 84 points in the regular season, finishing second on the team in both goals (34) and assists (50). Four forwards — Berg, Austin Staats, Dane Dobbie and Jeremy Noble — individually posted 70 points or more this season, each ranking in the top 26 in the league.

Goalie Frank Scigliano ranked third in the league with a 9.78 goals against average and eighth with a .793 save percentage. The Seals allowed an average of 10.17 goals per game, the second-best mark in the league.

“Their offense is a pretty dynamic offense,” Day said. “They move the ball well. They score a lot of goals. They’ve got a good goaltender. Both defenses are similar. We’re both kind of young, I guess you’d say no-name defenses. Not a lot of stars defensively, but both really good, solid units. And then both good goaltending. So it’ll be a really tight game.”

One-and-done

The quarterfinal between the Wings and the Seals is a one-game, single-elimination round. The victor will advance to the best-of-three conference finals against the winner of the Mammoth-Roughnecks quarterfinal.

Now, the Wings will lean on their veteran experience heading into the first round of the playoffs as they look to capture their first title in the franchise’s modern era.

“As a veteran group, when these one-and-dones happen, you see there’s a higher level of focus in the locker room, in your practice time, and leading up to those games,” Crowley said. “It’s a great thing about having that veteran group. In terms of that, we’re proven winners and have done it at all sorts of levels. We’re excited to go into another situation this weekend.”