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NLL Training Camp Report: Philadelphia Wings

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The Philadelphia Wings are getting ready to take flight.

This offseason, the Wings made a concerted effort to get younger and faster by making numerous deals. After the team’s first weekend of training camp at the Wings training facility in Voorhees Township, New Jersey, there’s no doubt that they accomplished their mission.

There wasn’t a drill or any part of the team’s practices that were taken lightly by anyone who showed up to camp. That’s saying something, considering the team had a record number of guys take part in the team’s battles this weekend – around 60 guys participated. The team’s scrimmage on Sunday was also no joke. It was like watching a consequential regular season game, and this was only the first scrimmage of the year.

Wings’ head coach Paul Day was very excited to get things going this year. Since the team’s inception ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, there have been challenges to smooth training camps.

Camps have been impacted by weather, COVID-19 and injuries (with some overlapping). This is the first training camp where the team feels their plan can come and go without any significant hiccups (knock on wood). They have all of the potential pieces they need to be successful this season.

“There’s so many new pieces, so it’s a competition at training camp,” Day said. “Younger guys bring competition, and competition brings energy, so for us, it’s brought a lot of speed (Mike McCannell, Scott Dominey, Mitch Armstrong). There’s a lot of speed and up-tempo; that’s the thing we’ve learned from this training camp.”

Another aspect that has made this Wings camp unique is that of the nearly 60 players involved, almost all of them have a box background. While more and more field lacrosse players are choosing to dive into the world of box lacrosse, having guys who have grown up playing box or have extensive junior box lacrosse backgrounds will reassure the coaching staff that their guys are well-versed as to what to do out on the floor.

“It’s been very different than past training camps,” Day said. “We haven’t done a lot of teaching this weekend. In the past, we’ve had a lot of guys that maybe didn’t have a lot of box experience, but every guy out here (other than some of the guys from the free agent camp) are box players. I found that to be very refreshing. Even though they’re young, they’ve been playing box their whole life.”

One of those young talents is 19-year-old Mitch Armstrong. A St. Catharines Jr. A product, Armstrong is coming into his first NLL camp ready to be a sponge with a very positive attitude. Coach Day believes that Armstrong and Taggart Clark, son of Albany FireWolves head coach Glenn Clark, have what it takes to be a key piece to the Wings’ puzzle.

“I’ve learned so much already,” Armstrong said. “It’s been an incredible experience so far; it’s almost surreal. There’s so much to take in and so much to learn – I’m so lucky to have this opportunity. There are so many great guys on this team, from Blaze to Mitch to so many of the D-guys, just to name a few. I’m just taking it step-by-step and learning as much as I can.”

Armstrong will likely be one of the young, promising defensive pieces joining the squad this season. Over the offseason, the Wings also acquired Dominey (26 years old) and McCannell (24 years old) to shake up the back end and give the defense a youthful revival. The energy, enthusiasm, and competitiveness that they brought to the first weekend of camp was clearly infectious.

Offensively, outside of significant pieces like Holden Cattoni coming in and Matt Rambo on the holdout list, the core of the Wings’ offense remains intact. You could see the chemistry that they already have. What was a pleasant surprise in the 11-10 scrimmage between Team Black and Team White was the fact that there were about a half-dozen transition goals – defensemen Ryan Wagner (29 years old) and Marcus Minichiello (26 years old) provided the majority of those goals.

“We already have some chemistry started from last year, so being able to build off of that will be important,” McComb said. “I thought the whole [offensive] group was really good. I don’t think just one guy stood out. I just think that as a group, and where we were at as a group, we are way ahead of where we were last year.”

With the Wings headed up to Ontario for some scrimmages over the next few weeks, before their season officially starts on December 2nd, this team can continue to find their groove and find the perfect recipe for success.

This weekend was only the beginning for a Wings team that is ready to win now, said defensive coordinator Ian Rubel. Rubel has been with the team since its inaugural season, and he’s never felt better about what they can achieve if they keep putting in effort like they did at the their first training camp sessions.

He was impressed with how the younger players, such as Armstrong, Dominey, McConnell and Jackson Ganton (21 years old), were able to lock down many of the offensive weapons that are on the Wings roster.

“I’ve been here since 2018, and this is the most competitive camp I’ve seen,” Rubel said. “We said over the offseason that we wanted to get younger and faster, and this scrimmage highlighted for us that we did that.”