Despite enjoying a five-goal lead in the third quarter last weekend, the FireWolves fell at home to a Georgia Swarm team who surged back for an eight-goal fourth. Still sitting in the fifth spot in the Eastern Division, Albany takes to the road this weekend to face the New York Riptide for the first of two regular season matchups between the two squads. Though the FireWolves hold the fifth spot in the East, due to the playoff structure this year, Albany would make the playoffs and be seeded as the fourth team in the Western bracket. For full coverage of this weekend’s matchup against the Riptide, fans can tune into on My4 WNYT and ESPN Plus to watch, or 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio to listen at 7:30 p.m.
The Riptide had a slow start to the season, winning just one of their first eight games. Over their last three games however, the Riptide have been victorious in two of them, showing signs up life as the team looks to claw its way into the playoff conversation. New York is coming off a 15-goal win over the Rochester Knighthawks and will look to keep the momentum going as Albany seeks a bounce-back game on the road.
FireWolves Players to Watch:
Ryan Benesch has been instant offense since joining the FireWolves in an early season trade. The lefty may have been held out of the net last weekend, but he still contributed three assists as he set up the offense all night. His 69 total points on 25 goals and 44 assists rank second among the FireWolves and both his points and assists totals rank inside the top five overall in the NLL. Through 11 games on the season, the Riptide have allowed a whopping 147 goals. Benesch and company will have plenty of chances to score in this one and do not be surprised to see a jaw-dropping line from the lefty when it is all said and done. One thing the Riptide have done well is score goals themselves, meaning that Albany will have to continue to pile it on when they can, and you can bet Benesch will not be held goal-less this weekend.
Charlie Kitchen seemingly gotten better every weekend and it does not look like the rookie is slowing down any time soon. The chef has recorded a point in five straight games now and ranks sixth in total points on the team, despite playing in just 12 of the team’s 14 games. Last weekend, Kitchen added one goal and one assist and has been proving to be another weapon in the FireWolves’ offensive arsenal. Kitchen has scored two goals on three separate occasions this year, and with the number of goals the Riptide have allowed already, do not be surprised to see Kitchen coming away with his first career hat trick in this one.
Tony Malcom returned to action this past weekend after missing the previous two games due to injury. Returning to form, the transition man provided a full stat line with one assist, seven loose ball recoveries, and three caused turnovers. He is a guy who does a little bit of everything and someone that the FireWolves will continue to rely on both offensively and defensively as the team looks to stay in the playoff hunt. On the season, Malcom has scored at least one point in all but two games this season while causing at least one turnover in all but three. This guy is seemingly everywhere on the floor and if you blink after a defensive stop, you can expect #4 to be running ahead of the pack in transition the other direction.
Opposing Players to Watch:
Callum Crawford is a name that FireWolves Head Coach, Glenn Clark, and his staff are very familiar with. Crawford played two seasons under Clark with the New England Black Wolves and was an absolute points machine. Signing with the Riptide as a free agent after the 2019-20 season, Crawford has continued to be one of the premiere scorers in the league. Through 11 games, Crawford leads the Riptide 67 total points, good for sixth most in the NLL. The veteran forward is coming off back-to-back six-point performances including a five-goal game a weekend ago. The FireWolves defense will certainly have its hands full with Crawford, but if anybody can devise a way to slow him down, it might be Albany, given the recent history.
Jeff Teat has taken the lacrosse world by storm over the past few years as he has shone as a rookie both indoors and out. Drafted first overall in 2020, the NLL is getting their first look at Teat this season and he has not disappointed. The rookie’s 64 points ranks second on the team and his 44 assists tie him with Benesch for the fourth most in the league. He wasted no time bursting onto the scene and has been on a tear recently as well, coming off a nine-point game just last weekend. Between Crawford and Teat, the Riptide have two elite goal scorers that Albany must find a way to slow down in order to come away from Long Island with a win.
Goaltender Steven Orleman may actually be having a better season than the record and numbers indicate. Despite the 3-7 record for the goalie, he has allowed 124 goals while recording 393 saves. Orleman has helped the Riptide win two of their last three games, including last weekend when he had 46 saves. New York has allowed their fair share of goals so far this season as Orleman has allowed at least 12 in his last six outings. Albany’s offense has no shortage of weapons and must pepper Orleman with quality shots all game long. Though this does not mean goals will come easy for the FireWolves, Albany has the clear advantage in this particular matchup.
This will be the first of two times that the Riptide and FireWolves meet this season. The two teams will meet in the Capital Region for the final game of the regular season on Saturday, April 30.
Fans can secure their tickets for any of the 2021-22 FireWolves games today! For more information regarding tickets, visit www.AlbanyFireWolves.com