The FireWolves have been in playoff mode for a month now as the team fought to secure their spot by winning the three final game of their inaugural regular season. With Albany’s victory last weekend and because Philadelphia defeated Georgia, the FireWolves will be traveling to Western New York this weekend for a one-game playoff matchup against the top seed in the East, the Buffalo Bandits. The FireWolves and Bandits met twice previously this season, with Buffalo winning both matchups. The FireWolves defense enters this weekend having played stifling defense during their current three-game winning streak. The Albany defensive unit has allowed just 21 goals over that span and is gelling at the right time heading into the playoffs. Additionally, the Albany offense has been clicking as well, racking up 39 goals during the streak.
Buffalo has undoubtably been the top team in the NLL all season long, but Albany did manage to give them two tough games during the regular season. The last time Buffalo and Albany met, it was an overtime thriller that was back and forth all game long. Albany was able to tie the game late, but Buffalo had the last laugh scoring in the extra period to seal the victory. Despite dropping three of their last four games, Buffalo presents a tough matchup in all facets of the game. The Bandits led the league by a large margin with 247 goals scored, while allowing the third fewest goals on the season with just 185. Buffalo did see defeat twice at the KeyBank Center this season, each of their last two home games. With the playoff matchup being a single game in the first round, expect this one to be a fight to the finish as Albany looks to hand Buffalo their third consecutive home loss.
For full coverage of this weekend’s matchup against the Buffalo, fans can tune into My4 Albany or ESPN Plus to watch, or 104.5 The Team to listen at 7:30 p.m. EST. Being just a one-game playoff matchup, the winner will move on to face the winner of the Halifax/Toronto matchup, while the loser of the game will be done for the season.
FireWolves Players to Watch:
Joe Resetarits has had quite the remarkable season for the FireWolves, and you simply cannot write a game preview without mentioning him. The only American-born player to finish a season with 100 or more points (he has now done it twice in his career, let that sink in), Resetarits led the Wolves in points, goals, and assists, and was top five in each category in the NLL ranks. The veteran forward had a relatively slow start to the season, but since mid-January he has scored at least four points in every contest, including matching a season-high 11 points just last weekend. In two games versus Buffalo this season, Resetarits racked up six goals and five assists. He has been Albany’s offensive star and most consistent weapon all season long, so don’t expect anything different as he faces one of his former teams in a winner-take-all format game.
Andrew Kew is a rising star who just had one of the best games of his career at a perfect time as the team looks to upset the top-seeded Bandits on the road. In last weekend’s rout of the Riptide, Kew fell just one goal shy of a sock trick with his five goals and two assists. In his two games against Buffalo this season, Kew managed to score six points on two goals and four assists. The second-year player scored multiple goals in every game during the regular season and the FireWolves will need him to stay hot and continue to get quality shots on net in this one. With an arsenal of weapons on the FireWolves offense, do not sleep on this lefty to rack up a bunch of points in any contest.
Goaltender Doug Jamieson has shown why he is regarded as one of the best in the world over the course of the team’s last three games. The reigning Goaltender of the Year allowed single-digit goals in each of the last three games – all victories. If Jamieson can stand on his head in this one and somehow limit the potent Bandits offense to under ten goals, don’t be surprised to see the FireWolves advancing. On the season, Jamieson finished with 675 saves, a .787 save percentage, and a respectable 10.34 GAA. In each of the last two FireWolves games, Jamieson held the opposition scoreless in the third quarters as the Albany offense pulled away on the scoreboard. In a one-game scenario, who better to have between the pipes than one of the best in the business?
Opposing Players to Watch:
Dhane Smith’sseason is nothing short of incredible and will certainly command the focus of the FireWolves defense this weekend. He finished the regular season topping the league with 135 points… 16 points more than the next closest player. His 94 assists easily led the league as well while also shattering his own franchise record. Like every other team in the NLL, the FireWolves could not slow down Smith in either of the two previous meetings this season. Smith finished with 14 points over the course of two games against Albany this year. Though the Bandits can beat you in so many ways, Albany must find a way to limit the damage of Smith in this one. Albany needs to watch last weekend’s tape between the Bandits and the Toronto Rock as Smith was held scoreless on 11 shots on goal. Not only was that the only time Smith was held to zero points in a game, but it was also the only game all season in which he scored fewer than four.
Josh Byrne finished just one point shy of the century mark this season and was another guy that the FireWolves had a tough time containing this season. He had nine total points against the FireWolves this season, including a five-assist outing where he was constantly setting up teammates with open looks. Byrne finished the regular season ranking second on Buffalo in points, goals, and assists. He will certainly draw attention from the FireWolves defense as he has proven he can light up the scoreboard on his own or find guys like Smith and set up scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Goaltender Matt Vinc has been lights out this season and is a strong candidate for Goaltender of the Year. He has already won the award seven times over the course of his Hall of Fame career. In the previous two matchups against the Wolves, Vinc held Albany to just 19 goals combined. Simply put, if the FireWolves cannot score double digits in this one, they will have a steep uphill climb. Vinc has been a wall all season and has allowed under ten goals in ten separate outings. Albany certainly has the firepower to test Vinc, but he has experienced it all throughout his time in the NLL. The FireWolves will need to find a way to score early and often on Vinc to build a lead and then rely on their stout defense to maintain it for 60 minutes.
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.