FireWolves Sizzle in Spectacular Semi-Finals Game One with Victory over the Seals 5/3/24

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Di Miller, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©

Featured Image Photo Credit:  Jake Whiting

On Friday May 3, 2024, it was Game One of the Semi-Finals for the No. 3 Seed Albany FireWolves and the No. 2 Seed San Diego Seals.  This was the first ever trip to the Semi’s for both teams, so it was a night to remember.  In a tale of two teams, the youngest on average age FireWolves would go head-to-head against the older and more experienced Seals.  But experience did not help San Diego during this contest as Albany would jump out to an early lead the end of the first and did not look back.  Doug Jamieson was absolutely spectacular in between the pipes again during the game boasting a .731% Sv% (27 saves, 39 SOG).  Alex Simmons would put up 10 points (5g, 5a) the second most by a rookie in a playoff game since 1992.  In the end, the goblins came back to haunt the Seals as they were unable to mount a last-minute comeback for a win in their home arena.  Final Score:  FireWolves 14—Seals 12.

Albany would win the opening draw but gave up possession and San Diego would make them pay early.  It took just 40 seconds for Dane Dobbie (3g, 1a) to let one go.  He beat Jamieson down low and put it near side low 1-0 Seals. The next goal didn’t go up for almost six minutes.  Alex Simmons (5g, 5a) stepped in and buried it up high with four seconds left on the shot clock to tie the game at 1-1.  Quickly San Diego would get that one back.  Curtis Dickson (4g, 2a) who had been silent in last weekends quarter finals, found his way to the inside, tucked it in, dove through the crease, faked left and came back across the left side of his body and put it over the shoulder 34 seconds later and the Seals had retaken the lead 2-1.  It took a little less than two minutes before Albany put up the equalizer.  Ethan Walker (2g, 5a) got the pass, spun around, and with the quick catch and release fired on Christopher Origlieri (38 saves, 52 SOG) and the ball went through his legs with 6:14 in the first to make it 2-2.  On the delayed penalty in the last seconds of the first, Sam Firth (1g, 1a) would get the pass from Simmons, and with .04 seconds left on the ticker, would fire a quick catch and release putting it top corner.  Score at the end of one:  FireWolves 3—Seals 2.

This time the FireWolves would start things off scoring 1:32 into the second.  In transition, Simmons got the feed and fired a high-to-low step-down shot and it was 4-2.  With just 2:19 off the clock in the second, Albany would go man up and they’d notch their first power-play tally on the night 16 seconds into the extra man opportunity.  Tye Kurtz would feed to Walker, he used the open lane and with a flick of his wrist found the back of the net 5-2 Albany. A couple of minutes later, on some great off ball movement by the FireWolves, Kurtz (1g, 4a) would move across the floor on a beautiful cut, fired it low to high and found the far side of the net 4:22 in to make it 6-2 Albany.  The ensuing face off with Trevor Baptiste (17-29, 2 LB) and Joe Nardella (12-29, 3LB) just like many others, took longer than normal, in fact over 20 seconds before Albany got possession.  Once all was said and done, with 6:41 left in the half, Mike Byrne would get nabbed for a holding call putting the Seals on a man up and they’d notch their first power play tally on the night.  Staats would fee to Dobbie on the doorstep, he faked high and went low far side to make it 6-3.  Another six minutes would tick off the timer before either net minder would break.  Wes Berg (2g, 4a) who had also been silent in the quarterfinals game, would finally find twine.  With a step-down shot, he fired a sidearm laser past Jamieson with 33.3 seconds left in the half.  The first half would end with the FireWolves leading the Seals 6-4.  Oddly enough, both netminders had matching save percentages at the end of two .777%.

Photo Credit: Jake Whiting

The teams would head back to the floor to start the third and San Diego got it going early again. Tre Leclaire (2g) would attempt a pass to Dickson on the crease, Dickson missed the pass and the ball floated over the shoulder just 23 seconds in 6-5 Albany.  It took only 23 seconds before the FireWolves would erase that tally.  Simmons was left all alone and uncorked a shot past the defenders and found the near pipe for his hat-trick and it was 7-5.  And they weren’t done yet.  Nathan Grenon (2g) from out in front, buried it five-hole 1:20 into the frame and just like that the three-goal lead was restored.  The Seals would get their lone goal in the frame two minutes later.  On another man up situation, Dickson fired a low-to-low shot far pipe and it was 8-6.  But that’s when the young squad came to life.  On the ensuing draw, Cam Holding (1a) who had not been penalized in 17 consecutive games, would get hit with a “minor” boarding call putting Albany back on the man up. This allowed Simmons to tally his fourth on the night with 6:25 left in the third.  He used a nice fake, fake, fake, brought it up high and came back down low for Albany’s second man up marker on the night 9-6.  Simmons would tally another matching his season high five goals.  He used a jab step hitch move, planted his feet and went five hole with 5:28 left in the third and the lead was now four 10-6.  Everything so far was going Albany’s way and San Diego was struggling.  The FireWolves would close out the third with just 1:21 left.  Grenon was sweeping across the floor from the boards and exploded a bounce shot that hit top right corner to close out the frame.  Score at the end of three:  FireWolves 11—Seals 6.

San Diego would outscore Albany 6-3 in the third, but they just couldn’t muster up enough to surpass the deficit.  Austin Staats (1g. 5a) would finally get on the board 2:19 in.  He fought his way to the crease, jumped up and snuck it near side and as he fell, his helmet popped off again (someone needs to fix his chin strap) 11-7 Albany.  On the two-man game, Berg would go airborne, threw a fake and put it near side 3:30 in and the gap was down to three 11-8.  On the next possession, John Wagner (2a) would cause the turnover, he sent an outlet pass to Mike Byrne (1g) who was flying down the floor in transition, and on the one-on-none, he buried it over the shoulder of Origlieri and it was now 12-8.  The fans would watch almost five minutes of scoreless lacrosse and the goal tenders were like brick walls.  It wasn’t until there was only 7:42 left in the contest, that San Diego would get hit with yet another penalty.  After some fireworks on the Seals crease, Albany would go on the 5 on 3, then a 5 on 4 and that’s when they’d score.  Walker would feed to Marshall Powless (1g, 3a) would was set up behind the net, he dove and dunked one on the inside pipe for a fancy man up marker with 5:54 left in the game and the five-goal lead was restored 13-8.  But the Seals weren’t going down without a fight.  Leclaire would get it back from Staats, he crashed the cage and as he was falling down, put it five-hole with 3:32 to make it 13-9 and Pechanga went wild. Next up, Dickson would get a BTB feed from Berg, he’d stutter step and fire a sidearm shot low-to-low for his hat-trick 13-10 with 3:07 to go.  This goal would move Dickson into a tie with Gary Gait with for the most goals in playoff history with 67.  He’d put up another tally with 1:49 in the game.  Eli Gobrecht (2a) sent an outlet pass to Dickson who was left all alone on the other end of the floor, he got to the middle and as he was falling down, buried it, making the score 13-11.  He would pass Gary Gait moving into 2nd place with most goals scored in the playoffs with 68.  It was do or die on the night for the Seals.  They’d go with the 6 on 5 with 82 seconds left and it paid off.  On the give and go, Dobbie went low with a bounce shot for his hattrick and they had closed to within one and 1:07 left to go 13-12.  Unfortunately for the Seals, they would stay with the 6 on 5 and would get hit with an “unsportsmanlike” penalty “bench minor” with 39 seconds left, Albany got the turn over on a loose ball push, and Colton Watkinson (1g) would head down the floor all alone and put it into the empty net with 39 seconds on the clock 14-12.  San Diego would call a timeout with 19.8 seconds to try and set up a play to tie it up, but they couldn’t find twine and the game would end giving the Seals the loss.  Final Score:  FireWolves 14—Seals 12.

Stars of the Game:
Alex Simmons—Albany FireWolves: (5g, 5a)
Ethan Walker—Albany FireWolves (2g, 5a)
Curtis Dickson—San Diego Seals (4g, 2a)

Albany FireWolves—SOG 52; Saves 27; Sv% .731%; FO 12-29; PP 3-9
San Diego Seals—SOG 39; Saves 38; Sv% .692; FO 17-20; PP 2-7

Game Two of the Semi-Finals for the teams will be in New York at MVP Arena on Sunday May 3, 2024, game time 3:00 p.m. EST, when the No. 3 Seed Albany FireWolves will host the No. 2 Seed San Diego Seals.  If Albany is able to pull off the “W” they will face the winners of the Toronto—Buffalo series.  Fans in the USA can see the game on ESPNU & ESPN+.    Fans in Canada can only catch the action on TSN+.

Di Miller, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©