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Upstart Albany FireWolves take on Dynasty Buffalo Bandits in NLL Finals

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Image Credit: Caden Balint (The guy who’s name is on the card) – Stream Punk Entertainment

The March to May has reached its climax.  Tonight the Albany FireWolves will play host to the Buffalo Bandits in Game 1 of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) Finals.  Just a year removed from a 3 win season, the FireWolves find themselves only 2 wins away from reaching the top of the mountain and hoisting their first NLL Cup.  However standing in the way is a dynasty in their own right with the Buffalo Bandits, a team who has seen 4 straight NLL Finals, with a championship finding its way to the Bandits last season.  

While a lot of this FireWolves team does not have the experience in NLL champions, set for 3, it is the coaching staff of the FireWolves who have experienced the glory of winning it all.  As assistant Darryl Gibson was able to win 3 NLL cups, it is head coach Glenn Clark, with his 5 NLL cups during his illustrious playing career, who continues to prove why he was a finalist, and eventual winner of head coach and general manager of the year with the FireWolves.  With a lot of young and new faces coming into the FireWolves at the start of the season, many questions loomed as to how such a young team would find success, yet it was Clark and the youngest team in the NLL who really helped Albany make leaps and bounds.  The FireWolves saw a lot of success across their entire squad when it came to helping the team reach their team record 11 wins, but a couple of names really stood out, those being Alex Simmons and Tye Kurtz.  This season Simmons and Kurtz became huge contributors for Albany both being named as rookie of the year finalists with Simmons taking home the honor.  While those 2 had a lot of eyes on them as the season went on, it was some vets like Ethan Walker, Travis Longboat, Nathan Grennon and captain Colton Watkinson all backed by a brick wall named Dougie Jamieson who put the finishing touches on a successful season for Albany.  

When it comes to the Bandits there is one word that comes to mind: Dominance. The Bandits are led by the offensive player of the year and MVP in Josh Byrne who is someone who can single handedly carry his team to a victory on most nights and with players like Dhane Smith and Ian MacKay being able to take charge when Byrne steps back.  All of this backed by another amazing goalie in this league in Matt Vinc, a 4 time NLL champion in his own right, the Bandits have all the pieces in place to return the NLL cup back to Buffalo.  Yet if the regular season is anything to go by, it is the FireWolves who have the Bandits number, beating them twice in the regular season.  

While the FireWolves may not know what it takes to win in the NLL finals, they definitely know what it costs to beat the Bandits and if they stick to that style that beat Buffalo twice this season, we may be seeing the FireWolves as the kings of the NLL.

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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