Panther City Lacrosse Club, Fort Worth’s newest professional sports team, lost the franchise’s inaugural game to the host Philadelphia Wings, 12-11, in overtime Saturday night.
Panther City, a National Lacrosse League expansion team, opened the scoring just 76 seconds into the game on a shot by 10-year NLL veteran transition Travis Cornwall. Comprised of players from the league’s other teams as well as rookies, the Fort Worth club played extremely well early, taking a 5-2 lead after the first quarter and a 7-4 lead at halftime.
In responding to a question about scoring the first goal in club history, Cornwall said, “It’s exciting, and when you are running the floor as much as I want to be running the floor this year I am expecting to get a lot of opportunities on net. It feels good to put the first one in.”
However, the third quarter was a different story. Philadelphia outscored Fort Worth 6-2 in the frame and took a 10-9 lead into the fourth quarter. Penalties proved to be costly for Panther City all night long as five of the Wings’ 11 goals in regulation came on power plays, including three in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Panther City scored two goals, and defenseman Josh Mederios’ shorthanded tally with 6:42 left to play gave Fort Worth an 11-10 lead. Philadelphia would get the equalizer 90 seconds later while still on the same power play.
Philadelphia’s Matt Rambo (three goals, four assists) provided the game-winner just 23 seconds into sudden-death overtime.
“I thought all in all there were a lot of positives we could take out of that loss,” said Ryan Benesch, a forward who is entering his 15th season. “It was great to see the guys not hang their heads when we were down. We battled back. Obviously, we had a couple mistakes that we need to clean up. That comes with time. We have a lot of youth. A lot of new guys playing — couple games under their belt and those little mistakes will be cleaned up and I think the outcome will be different.”
Panther City goalie Kevin Orleman (35 saves) appeared to be a human vacuum cleaner in the first half, scooping, smothering or stopping most of Philadelphia’s shots. “Orly played great in net,” Benesch said. “He gave us a chance to win that game obviously a couple bounces our way and it is a different outcome.”
Panther City opens its home schedule at Dickies Arena next Friday, Dec. 10, at 7:30 p.m. against the Vancouver Warriors (1-0).
“We are already chomping at the bit [about playing at home],” Benesch said. “We talked about it in the locker room. Getting to Dickies Arena and showing the fans exactly what this team is made of, I am excited to get there. I am excited for the fans to see the product we put on the floor.”
In 2020, the NLL announced in July that Fort Worth would become the league’s 14th franchise. And then in November the organization said that the team would be known as Panther City Lacrosse Club. Two months ago, the team revealed the turf field at Dickies Arena.
While Saturday’s game was a first for Panther City, the NLL hadn’t played a game in 21 months as the coronavirus pandemic led to the suspension of play in March of 2020. The league wiped out the remainder of the 2019-20 season during the initial wave of COVID-19 shutdowns, and ultimately the NLL suspended its entire 2020-21 campaign.