WINGS CRUNCH CLEVELAND IN OT HAMERSKY, BENJI SHINE
Spectacular saves, solid defense, tricky foot work, rocket blasts on goal from midfield - they were all on display this weekend as the Wichita Wings took down the Cleveland Crunch in overtime at the Hartman Arena.
"If it is your first Wings game or your 100th you will never leave a game disappointed," said Coach Roger Downing, and the Saturday night rumble against the Crunch definitely did not disappoint.
It was, in many ways, the battle of the goalkeepers. The Wichita Wings' Steven Hamersky and Cleveland Crunch goalkeeper, Liam McIntosh, had spectacular saves and solid performances at the match - which put the two top teams of the MASL2 on the pitch. McIntosh recorded 15 saves in his first career start and Major Arena Soccer League 2 debut but seasoned keeper Hamersky was better - recording 17 saves including a shootout after he was involved in a skirmish inside the arc.
"Hamersky is always huge for us and last night was no different. He thrives on one-on-ones because of how patient he is to go to ground. His lateral quickness makes it hard for guys to score in those situations," said Downing.
You could say that it was all about the goalkeepers, but Benji might have something to say about that. Benji scored both the opening goal to get the Wings on the scoreboard and the closing, overtime volley to win the game for the Orange.
After a first quarter where neither team hit the back of the net, Ma'Cain Spragling and Gavriel Pewu of the Cleveland Crunch finally got some points on the board in the second quarter. The Wings were quick to respond. With 1:53 left in the half, a pass from Frank Tayou to Benji resulted in their first goal of the night.
The third quarter was all about the Wings. Kieran Laking also found a solid pass from Frank Tayou to slam one home and tie the game at about the seven-minute mark. David Lucio decided to end the quarter on a high note for the Orange Army and tipped one in, unassisted, with less than a minute left. The Wings began the fourth quarter in the lead, 3-2.
Kurt Raney hit a rocket for the Crunch into the top left corner off a pass from Ryan Minick to tie the game with less than three minutes left to play in regulation. Despite several good looks, the Wings couldn't convert and the game went into overtime.
The evenly-played match didn't surprise the Wings' coach.
"I said it going in, everyone one of their players are good and they don’t have many weaknesses. They are really organized and came in with a good game plan. The game could have gone either way," said Downing.
Overtime ended quickly, after just over two minutes. During a shooting barrage on McIntosh, Benji took a bouncing feed from Lucio and drove it home for the win, as the bench cleared to celebrate and the fans exploded into cheers.
"Benji hits those all the time in practice, it’s about time the fans got to see it," joked Downing. "Our blue collar work rate got us the W no doubt about it. I believe we had 20 blocks last night and that’s pure effort and getting to the ground. Our fans are educated and respect and cheer for those as much as they do goals."
The fans have a fun weekend ahead of them as the Wings will take on their rivals, the Amarillo Bombers at home, June 11 and 12. Both games kickoff at 7:05 p.m.
Still need tickets? Hartman Arena box office to get yours.
MASK/CLEAR BAG POLICY AND ARENA ENTRY
Please note that Hartman Arena does not require masks however, a Clear Bag Policy has been implemented and bags larger than 14" x 6" x 14" will not be allowed.
Doors open to the public at 6 p.m. and to Orange Army Fan Club Members at 5 p.m.