Firewolves Drop Game 1 in Albany – 5/17/2024

Justin Ivey, Co-Editor
Lacrosse is Awesome©

The seed Albany Firewolves hosted their first-ever NLL Finals game against the defending champion Buffalo Bandits at MVP Arena Friday night.  With Buffalo’s Josh Byrne (3G, 4A) and Firewolves Alex Simmons (2G, 4A) being named MVP and ROY respectively earlier in the day, this game was set up to be full of fireworks.  Everything a lacrosse fan should want came up in Game 1; spectacular goals, fast back-and-forth action, physicality from both sides, and stretches of stellar goaltending.  Albany and Buffalo locked in an epic battle on the turf and the game stayed close until the fourth quarter.  I don’t think anyone could have guessed the winner after three quarters.  On the back of Dhane Smith (2G, 9A), who had a hand in 11 of Buffalo’s 12 goals, the Bandits head back to Buffalo Saturday night with a chance at clinching back-to-back championships.  Final Score:  Buffalo-12, Albany-8.

Many expected a defensive series between these two New York teams, but the first quarter was the opposite with eight total goals.  Surprisingly, four for each team. Tye Kurtz (2G, 2A) opened the scoring much to the approval of the home team fans.  Just 35 seconds into the game, he picked up a rebound from a shot and put it over Matt Vinc (37SV) into the net.  Just over two minutes later, Tehoka Nanticoke (1G, 1A) tied the game off a Byrne and Smith assist.  With 9:34 remaining in the opening quarter, Byrne put the Bandits ahead for their first game lead with an absolute rocket of a bounce shot.  Albany responded with two straight goals.  Ethan Walker (2G, 5A) notched his first of the game with 7:47 remaining, and Kurtz scored his second of the quarter with a crease dive and 4:51 remaining.  Penalties plagued the Firewolves in the first quarter.  Byrne and Smith both scored powerplay goals within 30 seconds of each other to give the lead back to visiting Buffalo, but with 21 seconds left, Walker scored his second of the quarter to bring the game back to a tie.  At the end of the first quarter, Albany and Buffalo were tied 4-4.

Doug Jamieson (44SV) and Vinc owned the middle of this game.  Spectacular saves when stout defenses allowed a shot were turned away with what appeared to be ease.  After an eight-goal first quarter, only three goals were scored in the second quarter and two in the third.  Chris Cloutier (2G, 4A) opened the scoring, getting open on the crease for a feed and deking his way to an opening.  The goal came with 12:17 remaining, and Albany could not find an opening to respond until Travis Longboat (1G) evened the score again with 6:16 remaining.  Riding the momentum, Simmons scored with 26 seconds remaining, giving the Firewolves a one-goal lead heading into the locker room.  At the half, Albany led Buffalo 6-5.

Cloutier also opened the scoring in the third.  4:31 into the frame he scored off an assist from Smith.  Scoring again took a long pause as the game became more physical on the floor.  Chase Fraser (1G) scored his only goal of the game driving to the net with 3:03 remaining.  The goal was initially called a no-goal, but after a review was granted good.  At the end of the third quarter, Buffalo led Albany 7-6.

Ian MacKay (1G, 1A) scored 37 seconds into the fourth quarter and Buffalo had the first two-goal lead of the evening.  The Firewolves went 16:36 between scores and it was the rookie Simmons scoring his second in a row with 13:50 remaining.  The two-goal lead only lasted 33 seconds.  Buffalo’s offense turned it on in response.  Kyle Buchanan (1G) scored his only goal of the game with 7:56 remaining to restore the two-goal lead.  Byrne scored with 4:16 left followed by a goal from Smith with 2:34 left.  Dylan Robinson (1G) scored an empty netter with 2:20 remaining bringing the score to 12-7 in favor of the Bandits.  Sam Firth (1G) scored with 1:02 left for the home team to get the final score.  Final Score:  Buffalo-12, Albany-8.

Up Next:

The Buffalo Bandits host the Albany Firewolves on Saturday, May 18 at 7:30 PM ET.