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Preview: Albany FireWolves vs Philadelphia Wings

Looking to ride the momentum of the team’s first victory this past weekend, the FireWolves take to the road for the second time this season in a showdown versus the Philadelphia Wings at the Wells Fargo Center.  Albany capped off a defensive clinic last Saturday night, doubling up the Saskatchewan Rush 10-5.  The game this Saturday will be at 12 p.m. and broadcast live on My4 WNYT and ESPN Plus and can be heard on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio.

The Wings enter the game with a 3-1 record, good for second place in the Eastern Division.  Philadelphia has been one of the league’s most potent offenses through it’s first four games, scoring 47 goals, which is the second most across the NLL.  On the flip side, their defense has been susceptible to allowing goals, giving up 46 thus far.  Those 46 goals allowed are the second most behind only the winless Panther City Lacrosse Club.  The Wings also enter this game boasting a 3-0 record at home.

FireWolves Players to Watch:

Ryan Benesch made his debut with the FireWolves last weekend in the team’s first victory of its inaugural season and is already the team’s leader in total points.  In his first game in an Albany uniform, Benesch made an immediate impact, scoring two goals in the contest.  He played the first three games of the season with the Panther City Lacrosse Club before the FireWolves acquired him via trade for Johnny Pearson and a couple of draft picks.  So far on the season, Benesch has tallied 14 total points and also leads the FireWolves with nine assists.  Look for the lefty to continue to make an impact on the offensive side of the ball and give a boost to Albany in the goal scoring department.

Joe Nardella has shown why he is regarded as one of the best faceoff men in the world so far through the FireWolves’ first three games on the season.  The specialist is nearly perfect on the young season, winning a ridiculous 52 of 64 tries from the dot.  His 81.3% clip is the highest in the league among those who have attempted multiple faceoffs.  Nardella not only dominates faceoffs, but his versatility was also on full display in Saturday’s victory over the Rush.  He added two points including a theatrical crease dive goal that came mere seconds after a previous Albany score.  Nardella will face arguably his toughest opponent to date this season, Trevor Baptiste, who has won 78 of 109 opportunities through the Wings’ first four games.

Brett Manney was a welcome addition to the FireWolves defense in the team’s third game of the season.  The captain missed the first two games while on the injured reserve list but returned for game three and provided a much-needed lift as Albany surrendered a mere five goals to a tough Saskatchewan offense.  In his season debut, Manney logged three loose ball recoveries and caused one turnover.  Though the defenseman will probably not light up the stat sheet, his leadership both in and out of the box is unparalleled.  As long as number 13 is on the floor, expect the FireWolves defensive unit to continue to be stout and limit the success of opposing offenses.

Opposing Players to Watch:

Matt Rambo is already off to a hot start through the Wings’ first four games on the season, leading the team in points, goals, and assists.  He currently sits fourth overall in the NLL in both points (23) and assists (15) and is a threat to score himself at any point he has the ball in his stick.  Logging at least four points in every game so far, Rambo is coming off a well-balanced three goal and three assist performance.  Expect Rambo to possess the ball early and often in this contest and be a key component to the Wings’ offense. 

Blaze Riorden is already regarded as the best lacrosse player in the outdoor game as a stellar goaltender in the Premier Lacrosse League, and he is no slouch in the NLL either.  Riorden is a name that Capital Region lacrosse fans know very well as he was the goalie for the UAlbany Great Danes not long ago.  Playing forward indoors, Riorden was the hero last weekend for the Wings, calling game with an overtime strike to lift Philadelphia to a 12-11 victory.  Through four games, Riorden has 11 total points on five goals and six assists.

Goaltender Zach Higgins missed last Saturday’s game due to being in the Covid Protocol but is expected to return between the pipes against the FireWolves this weekend.  Despite allowing double digit goals in each of his first three games this season, it has not prevented the Wings from starting the 2021 campaign off with a 2-1 record with Higgins in net.  So far through the three games Higgins has played, the goalie has allowed 31 goals and as made 90 saves at a .744 clip.  Look for the FireWolves offense to pepper Higgins with shots all night and look to build a lead early. 

This will be the first of two meetings between the FireWolves and the Wings this season.  Philadelphia will travel to Albany for the FireWolves’ second to last game of the regular season on Saturday, April 16 in a game that could have heavy playoff implications on the line.

Fans can secure their tickets for any of the 2021-22 FireWolves games today!  For more information regarding tickets, visit www.AlbanyFireWolves.com or call/text the FireWolves front office at 518-362-4900.

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