Seals win first playoff game in franchise history, 9-8

Credit: Nicole Noel/ EVT Sports

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Credit: Josh Jimenez/ EVT Sports

Dane Dobbie scored his 66th and 67th playoff goals to help the San Diego Seals to a win over the Philadelphia Wings in the first round of the NLL playoffs. Patrick Shoemay scored his first two goals in his career, regular season and playoffs. San Diego rode their blend of youth and experience to a win that put them one step away from their first NLL final. 

The Seals won their regular-season finale to clinch the Western Division title, earning them home field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

In the one-game, quarter-final with the Philadelphia Wings, they needed every helping hand they could muster. A packed Pechanga Arena screamed and cheered throughout the incredibly tight contest. The Seals never trailed, but they also never led by more than two goals, as they could not pull away from the Wings. After the Wings clinched the final wild card spot, the Seals knew it would be a tough matchup, as the Wings had beaten the Seals in overtime in their only previous game this season. However, with the season on the line, the Seals found a way to win.

It did not matter that San Diego committed four penalties and surrendered three goals on the power play. It did not matter when the Wings pulled level after scoring back-to-back goals in the second quarter. It did not matter when Philadelphia struck in the final moments of the third quarter, sending the game to the fourth with all the momentum in Philadelphia’s favor. San Diego was resilient, as they always had an answer to everything the Wings threw at them.

The Seals’ experience proved crucial early, as Wesley Berg and Dane Dobbie scored in the first six minutes to put San Diego up a pair early. Berg scored on a power play as Austin Staats flipped a behind-the-back pass to Dane Dobbie, who fired a strike to Berg, who scored the goal. Dobbie then scored one of his own, muscling his way to an open look. However, the Seals’ lead did not last long, as Philadelphia scored on a counterattack before Kiel Matisz fired them level on a power play. Berg intercepted a pass in the Wings zone, firing the Seals ahead at the end of the first period.

Just 40 seconds into the second period, the Seals doubled their advantage. Defenseman Patrick Shoemay picked up a rebound and fired it home, scoring his first career goal in the biggest game of his career.

Matt Rambo struck back for the Wings, taking advantage of a power play. San Diego had just killed a power play when Graydon Bradley’s penalty put the Wings on a man advantage again. Rambo took advantage to bring the game within one. San Diego’s assist leader scored a goal of his own, as Jeremy Noble re-extended the advantage to two goals. Unfortunately for the Seals, the Wings struck with just 19 seconds left to go in the first half, meaning the Seals went into the second half with a 5-4 advantage.

Rambo’s second goal of the night brought the Wings level, firing a bullet past Seals goalie Frank Scigliano’s left leg. That did not last long either, as Austin The Phenom” Staats scored twice in 23 seconds. Staats’ goals were his first in the postseason, scoring a diving goal for his first and a leaping one for his second. Kiel Matisz took advantage of a power play to cut the lead back to one, but Shoemay scored his second career goal in transition. Shoemay came into the game with under ten shots in his career but scored twice when it mattered. The Wings just would not go away as Rambo completed his hat trick with an incredible goal that came with three Seals players draped over him.

In the fourth quarter, Dane Dobbie struck again, firing a bullet past Philadelphia goalie Zach Higgins. Dobbie’s 67th career playoff goal tied him for second all-time in NLL postseason goals.

With the Seals up by two, they found themselves comfortable for the first time, but Kyle Jackson’s goal with four minutes to go brought it within one.

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However, the Seals’ defense, which had pushed them to the playoffs in the first place, came up clutch with four minutes of stellar defense. Scigliano came up with huge saves on his way to 37 stops on the night. Seals captain Patrick Merrill iced the game with a steal in the final seconds. 

After all the swings and chaos, San Diego finally picked up their first playoff victory in franchise history. They’ll begin a three-game series in the Conference Finals against the third-seeded Colorado Mammoth on Friday night. 

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