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FireWolves Storybook Season Over, Eyes Shift to Next Season

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Image Credit (and used with permission from) Nathanael LePage-IG: lepagesportsphoto

From 3-15 to the NLL finals, the Albany FireWolves had a storybook season. Whether it was the 2 separate winning streaks that propelled them to their only second playoff berth in team history, the emergence of rookie sensations Alex Simmons and Tye Kurtz or the deep playoff run that the FireWolves found themselves going on, Albany had a lot to be proud of.

Last season the FireWolves saw a lot of struggles, like losing key players to injury even before the season started such as Joe Nardella, Travis Longboat, and Jackson Nishimura, who were all key components for the FireWolves and the amazing season that they had this year. With these key injuries the FireWolves were never able to find stability in places they needed it the most, like in the faceoff circle and in the transition both offensively and defensively. Due to all of the injuries piling up and the lack of permanence thanks to said injuries, the FireWolves found themselves at the bottom of the league. However this saw them with the first overall selection in the 2023 NLL draft, along with 2 other selections in the first alone and a total of six selections to round out their picks for that year’s draft. With the first overall selection the FireWolves selected Dyson Williams, a attackman from Duke who will just add to a now dangerous offensive group, while the later of the first rounders saw Albany draft on the defensive side of the ball. Once the draft was finished up, the FireWolves put all eyes to the start of the new season as they looked to improve in all aspects that they could, and improve they did. The FireWolves found themselves on the winning side of the ball through their first six games of the season, being able to outscore their opponents 79 to 51 in this winning streak. In this streak the FireWolves saw just the start of sensational rookie seasons for both Alex Simmons and Tye Kurtz as they found themselves being a key part of the offense, scoring a combined 61 points through those six games alone. As mentioned, this would only be the start for these rookies, as they would both find themselves as rookie of the year finalists, scoring 96 points (Simmons) and 78 points (Kurtz) during the regular season. After two straight losses the FireWolves got right back into their winning ways, rattling off another four straight wins and putting themselves one win away from clinching home field for their first playoff matchup, then came some struggle. After their tenth win the FireWolves would find themselves on a five game losing streak and in the midst of their own self doubt, losing close games to teams they felt were beatable. However, as the last game of the season rolled around, the FireWolves would pull out all the tricks to win their 11th game of the season and punch their ticket for a home playoff game for the first time in franchise history and give themselves a boost of momentum going into the playoffs.

As the regular season was finishing up, Albany knew they would be hosting the Halifax Thunderbirds in their first playoff game, and once the contest got underway it was very obvious this game would turn into a test of goaltending and defensive structure. As this matchup moved along it was FireWolves star goalie Dougie Jamieson who became the standout showing off his spectacular skills from the regular season and shutting the Thunderbirds down making 52 saves, while only letting three goals in. With the single game elimination game over, Albany looked to their next challenger in the San Diego Seals, and they knew these next 2 games would be a battle of offensive prowess. This semi finals matchup saw the FireWolves sweep the Seals while out scoring them 27 to 22, with the series being a battle of might and wit. This might was shown with the amount of penalties taken in the span of the two games totaling around 120 minutes, while the wit was shown in who was able to take advantage of said penalties. With Albany sweeping the Seals, their final test would be a Battle of I-90 as they would be playing the Buffalo Bandits, however this would be the end of the road for the FireWolves.

The FireWolves brought everything they had to their finals matchup against the Bandits, but it was the playoff experience for Buffalo that became the turning point in their sweep over the FireWolves. Albany would never just roll over quietly and even with Buffalo holding leads late into the game, the FireWolves kept pushing and kept fighting as if the game was a complete deadlock. In both games the FireWolves continued to fight, push and play their hearts out to the very last whistle.

Even with the season over the FireWolves have a lot to be proud of, as the youngest team in the league they were able to beat all expectations placed on them by the league and showed that not only will they be a team to reckon with for years to come, but they showed that Albany is in fact a lacrosse town. With rookies stars up and down the lineup complemented by a veteran leadership group and more players to come, Glenn Clark and the rest of the FireWolves organization will have a championship in their hands one day.

Caden Balint is a graduate of La Salle Institute in Troy, NY and Merrimack College in North Andover, MA and has been in love with sports forever. Whether it is watching, playing, writing, sports have always been a passion. Getting the chance to start his dream of sports journalism with Stream Punk is just the start of a long journey. In his spare time Caden enjoys playing hockey, spending time with his loved ones and playing video games but you will soon get to know him a lot more!

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