Justin Ivey, Co-Editor and NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
The Albany Firewolves (2-6) came into Saturday night’s game against the Las Vegas Desert Dogs (3-5) having lost three straight games and hoped to turn the fortunes around at home. The defense hasn’t necessarily been the weak cog, as Doug Jamieson (33SV) continues to play at a stellar level. Rather, the offense has been struggling to find consistency and Las Vegas was able to capitalize on the shortcoming late in the game. The Desert Dogs held the Firewolves scoreless in the fourth quarter to turn a one goal deficit into a two-goal win. Las Vegas was led by Zach Greer (3G, 1A) and Rob Hellyer (2G, 5A), while Albany was headed by Tanner Thompson (4G, 2A) and Kieran McArdle (2G, 5A) in a game that neither team led by more than two goals at any point. Final Score: Las Vegas-12, Albany-10.
Albany started out on the right foot and notched the first goal of the game on the power play opportunity 3:12 into the game. Rookie John Piatelli (1G, 2A) beat Las Vegas netminder Landon Kells (41SV) with a high-to-high shot in a scrambled situation after the first shot of the possession went wide. The lead was short lived though, as Las Vegas answered right off the next faceoff. Brandon Clelland (1G) streaked down the middle after the loose ball scrum. Connor Kirst (1G, 4A) found him with a crisp pass and Clelland buried a side arm to the far low corner. On the next faceoff, Las Vegas again streaked and scored. This time, John Wagner (1G) took it in himself. The Firewolves defense clamped down and allowed the offense to string their own two-goal run together. Thomson scored the first unassisted with 9:45 remaining in the opening quarter. Right after setting up their offense on the ensuing possession, Ethan Walker (2G, 1A) was the cutter as the ball spun around the outside. He scored to give the lead back to Albany just 23 seconds after the tying goal. Keeping with the trend, Las Vegas answered again with a two-goal run. Greer notched a power play goal on the assist from Jack Hannah (1A) with 7:10 left, and Reid Reinholdt (1G) unleashed a laser to the top corner from outside with 4:38 left. Albany halted that run with a goal from McArdle with 1:56 left on the clock. The Firewolves got a shot clock reset, picking up the loose ball after a saved shot, and McArdle eventually found himself alone on the side with enough time and space to throw a fake before scoring five hole. At the end of the first quarter, Las Vegas and Albany were tied 4-4.
The second quarter saw both defenses flex. The first goal didn’t come until 5:46 of game time had passed. Greer caught a pass from Hellyer on the power play and just quickstepped his way to the middle of the defense before finishing in close on Jamieson. Despite the lack of scoring in the second quarter, Las Vegas didn’t hold the lead for long again. Thompson cut through the middle of the Las Vegas defense and caught a perfect pass from McArdle. With a quick stick fake, he was able to beat Kells as he continued his forward momentum across the crease. With 8:20 remaining, the game was tied again. Nearly three minutes ticked off the game clock before Greer broke the tie for the second time in the quarter, again on the assist from Hellyer. Sam Firth (1G) extended the lead to two with 1:18 left. Hellyer’s third assist of the quarter found Firth in the middle of the defense. In one motion, while being knocked down, Firth caught the ball and released underhand to find the net. At halftime, Las Vegas led Albany 7-5.
Albany came out of the half on fire. The defense didn’t give up a goal until 38 seconds remained and the offense took advantage of the clamp down, scoring four goals and flipping a two goal deficit, into a two goal lead. Thompson scored his hat trick goal to open the quarter 3:11 in. Three power play goals followed; all opportunities gained from calls on Rienholdt. Walker, McArdle and Thomson were the beneficiaries and with 1:55 remaining in the third, Albany led Las Vegas 9-7. Hellyer knifed his way through the Albany defense in transition to finally stop the onslaught, but Albany got it back before the quarter ended. Connor Kelly (1G, 4A) found the net with four seconds remaining on a jump spin top from outside. At the end of the third quarter, Albany led Las Vegas 10-8.
The magic fizzled for Albany in the fourth quarter, and Las Vegas rolled. Kells turned away every shot he faced in the final quarter, and the offense was able to gather enough momentum to turn the game around. Charlie Bertrand (1G, 1A) cut the deficit to one cutting to the middle and catching a pass from Greer behind the net 2:02 in. Under a minute later, Hellyer scored his second of the night to tie the game 10-10. The roll slowed, and a few times it looked as though Albany could swing momentum back, but alas Jon Phillips (1G) broke the tie with 5:23 remaining. The rookie launched a rocket from above a good screen outside for his ninth goal of the season. Kirst put the cherry on top with an empty net goal and just 48 seconds on the game clock. Final Score: Las Vegas-12, Albany-10.