Coming off a huge win against the Western Division’s leader, the San Diego Seals, Albany returns home for a rematch against inner state foes, the Buffalo Bandits. Albany’s victory last weekend snapped a three-game losing streak as they look to ride that momentum while seeking revenge against the another first place team this weekend. The FireWolves currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Division, just a game back in the win column behind the third place Toronto Rock. For full coverage of this Saturday’s matchup against the Bandits at 7 p.m., fans can tune into on My4 WNYT and ESPN Plus to watch, or 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio to listen.
The Bandits come to the Capital Region with a league-best 8-1 record sitting atop the Eastern Division. The last time the two teams met, the Bandits won on their turf. The game was bizarre in that all 21 of the combined goals scored were into the same net. The Bandits have won their last two games, including a dominant 14-8 victory over Rochester last weekend. Buffalo has imposed their will on both sides of the floor so far this season, leading the league in scoring while allowing the second fewest goals as well.
FireWolves Players to Watch:
Ryan Benesch has been one of the most dominant offensive players in the league throughout his career, and he has been one half of an unstoppable force during the month of February for the FireWolves. Between him and Joe Resetarits, the two have combined for a total of 83 points in Albany’s last six games. Benesch had a solid outing in the loss two weekends ago against one of his former teams in Buffalo. The forward turned in a five-point effort on two goals and three assists. Currently, Benesch ranks tied for fifth in the league with 55 total points and sixth overall with 34 assists. Albany will surely need Benesch to keep his high-level play up as the team looks to not only avenge a loss to the Bandits, but to gain momentum for a playoff push.
Jacob Ruest has been one of those guys who you could feel a breakout performance coming from at some point, and Albany got one in last weekend’s win over the Seals. Ruest logged a four-goal performance in what was a massive victory against a first-place team. The forward has quietly had himself a productive season in his first year with the organization, ranking fourth on the team with 15 goals and fifth on the team with 23 total points. In the prior meeting against Buffalo, Ruest logged one goal and one assist. If Ruest can get hot, he will be just another weapon for opposing defenses to focus on which is exactly what the FireWolves need heading down the stretch.
Joe Resetarits¸ alongside Benesch, has been one half of a dominant offensive unit this season. The Western, New York native has simply owned opposing defenses all year, leading the league with 66 total points while his 27 goals find him ranked second overall. He leads the team in points, goals, and assists, and is coming off a spectacular performance in last weekend’s win over the Seals, adding nine total points to his numbers on two goals and seven assists. In the last meeting against Buffalo, Resetarits recorded five total points on two goals and three assists. Resetarits has been a standout lacrosse player in the Capital Region dating back to his collegiate days at UAlbany and the FireWolves need him, along with Benesch and the rest of the offensive firepower, to stay hot to remain in playoff contention.
Opposing Players to Watch:
Chris Cloutier has been one of the premiere assist guys for Buffalo all season, but in the last meeting between Buffalo and Albany, his goal scoring ability shined. Despite only recording 12 goals to this point in the season, four of them came in the Bandits’ victory over the FireWolves just two weeks ago. Cloutier also logged one assist, giving him a total of five points in the game. He currently ranks third on the team with 34 points on 12 goals and 22 assists and is yet another dangerous weapon in the league’s most potent offense. Cloutier is coming off a three-assist game in the team’s win over Rochester last weekend and will look to continue to setup his teams in goal-scoring opportunities all night in the rematch against Albany.
Dhane Smith has been one of the most dominant players in the league through the team’s nine games this season. His 62 total points currently ranks second in the league behind Albany’s Resetarits, and his 42 assists top the NLL’s ranks. The FireWolves held Smith scoreless through the first three quarters two weekends ago, but he still ended the game with two goals to go along with his four assists. The righty is coming off an impressive nine-point performance against the Knighthawks on three goals and six assists. The Bandit’s offense is loaded with weapons, but Smith should be a focus for the Albany defense in this one.
Goaltender Matt Vinc may actually be under the radar this year given how strong the Buffalo offense has been. Through nine games, Vinc has allowed merely 86 goals and has stood on his head all season long. In the first meeting against the FireWolves, Vinc allowed only eight goals while recording 54 saves in the victory. Last weekend was a nearly identical performance as Vinc allowed eight goals and stopped 52 Rochester shots. Albany’s offense will not get anything easy on Vinc, but they must find ways to capitalize on open looks and power play opportunities if they want to settle the score against the Bandits. It is certainly clear how Vinc has won the NLL Goaltender of the Year award seven, yes seven, times throughout his decorated career.
This will be the second and final time that the Bandits and FireWolves meet this season. Buffalo defeated Albany in the prior matchup on Friday, February 18, 13-8.
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.
The Albany FireWolves 2021-22 Inaugural Season is presented by CDPHP.
The Albany FireWolves is the Capital Region’s very own Professional Box Lacrosse team, playing in the National Lacrosse League out of the MVP Arena in downtown Albany, NY. For more information, contact the Albany FireWolves Front Office at (518) 362-4900 or visit AlbanyFireWolves.com