By Tim Panaccio, Inquirer Staff Writer
Maybe Dave Evans has underestimated his ability as an orator.
A two-hour chat with his Philadelphia Wings last week produced startling results in Saturday’s 13-8 win over the New York Saints.
Things like checking opponents through the boards and under the Spectrum carpet, accumulating 18 assists after compiling just 21 in the first three games, and scoring goals in bunches, just like old times.
“Maybe I should have had the meeting earlier,” said Evans, the coach. ”They really responded well.”
If there was any doubt about whether the Wings (2-2) have found themselves, it was quashed in the third quarter, when they scored four straight goals, including two that were eight seconds apart, to snap a 7-7 tie.
Add some fine defense and a sterling performance in the nets by goalie Dallas Eliuk, and the temptation is to say the old Wings are back.
“Our big thing is to get the ball down, set up and play that rough and tough style,” said John Conley, who scored three goals against the Saints. ”We finally did that.”
Conley alternated on John Tucker’s and Lou Delligatti’s lines. He was particularly effective on Tucker’s penalty unit, which Evans employs in four- on-four situations.
“I really enjoy four-on-four,” said Conley. “That’s where I get the most room to operate. In those situations, when you beat a guy, no one is there to stop you.”
Conley missed one game this season with torn cartilage in his ribs, but showed no signs of problems in his cradling moves and overhand shots.
Forward Ricky Fried scored his first two goals of the season on Saturday.
“I don’t know if I’ve been pressing too much in games, but maybe I’ve been thinking too much instead of just shooting the ball,” said Fried, whose second goal ended the third-period barrage and gave the Wings an 11-7 lead.
“One of the things we talked about over and over this week was transition play from offense to defense. We didn’t have it until tonight. When this team plays five-on-five, no one is going to beat us.”
Watching the Wings operate against the Saints was like watching a video from the past two seasons. All the little things that helped the Wings win two Major Indoor Lacrosse League championships were evident.
Take Paul Deniken’s third-quarter goal, which put the Wings ahead to stay, 8-7.
Greg Manley faked a shot, then dropped the ball over a New York defender and right onto Deniken’s stick in the crease. Before goalie Vinnie Pfeifer could react, the ball was in the net.
“Deniken’s goal was so nice,” said Evans, who earned the 20th coaching victory of his career. “You saw a lot of good teamwork tonight. That’s the funny thing. The more we talked about what was wrong, the more we talked about little things like teamwork and getting back to basics.”
Eliuk, in his first season of American box lacrosse, finally appears to have settled in as the Wings’ starting goalie.
Three times he thwarted New York’s Rob Codignotto on clean breakaways. He also stopped Tim McIntee.
“Dallas had a helluva game,” said Evans. “This is the first time he’s really played up to his capability.”
Eliuk said it felt good to have a crowd of 16,282 roaring its approval.
“That crowd gives a goalie such a lift,” he said. “I felt more comfortable this game. They played better defense in front of me.”
For the breakaways, something that had victimized the Wings in three earlier games, Eliuk said he had made an adjustment.
“I’m watching for the ball now, and not the man,” he said. “Hey, I couldn’t tell Codignotto from Jon Reese. They all look alike in that bird-cage mask.”
(Philadelphia Inquirer, January 28, 1991)