Eduardo Curros – Pacific Correspondent, All Lacrosse All The Time
The National Lacrosse League’s Opening Weekend is here! The Las Vegas Desert Dogs faced the Albany Firewolves at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas on Friday night. The Desert Dogs had an up-and-down inaugural season, finishing outside the playoff picture. Meanwhile, the Firewolves struggled with injuries and consistency, finishing at the bottom of the league. Both teams have revamped themselves in the offseason and were ready to go. The Desert Dogs held the lead for most of the game, but a three-goal run in the final four and a half minutes gave Albany a 12-10 win.
Vegas leads early, but Albany rallies
Las Vegas quickly took a commanding lead in the first quarter. Zack Greer opened up the scoring thanks to support from Casey Jackson and Jack Hannah 53 seconds into the game. Jackson then expanded the lead thanks to another assist from Hannah at 1:20. Patrick Kaschalk answered for Albany at 2:40, with assists from Marshall Powless and Alex Simmons. Greer scored a powerplay goal at 4:11, assisted by Rob Hellyer. Rookie Sean Westley followed with his first career NLL goal at 4:38, with help from Tor Reinholdt and Jacob Ruest. Ethan Walker scored for Albany at 6:43 to make it 4-2, then former Desert Dog Sam Firth cut the deficit to one at 14:08 to close the first period action.
Vegas widened the lead in the second quarter, with Hellyer scoring 50 seconds in, and Greer getting his hat trick at 2:21, assisted by Westley. Albany responded with three consecutive goals: Alex Simmons’s first career NLL goal at 2:52, Powless at 3:59, and Leo Stouros at the 4:10 mark. The Stouros goal held up after one of several lengthy challenge reviews that occurred in the first half of the game. The Albany run tied the game at 6-6 going into halftime.
Late run gets Albany the win
The Desert Dogs quickly regained the lead in the second half with a goal from John Wagner, assisted by goaltender Landon Kells 44 seconds into the third quarter. Sam Firth scored his second of the night 3:16 in to tie the score again. Jackson scored 47 seconds later to put Las Vegas up 8-7. Walker answered with his second goal at 11:39, and the game was once again tied 8-8 going into the final frame.
Tye Kurtz gave the Firewolves their first lead of the game with his first career NLL goal at 7:15 of the fourth quarter. Jackson then scored two straight at 8:43 and 9:20 to put Vegas back in front, 10-9. But the Desert Dogs could not hold on, and Albany would have the last laugh. Simmons scored at 10:32, Travis Longboat at 10:59, and Kurtz again at 13:49 to give Albany the 12-10 victory.
The FireWolves were without veteran forwards Tanner Thomson and Nathan Grenon on Friday night. Joe Nardella won 15 of 26 faceoffs in his first NLL game in a year. Zach Cole won 11 of 26 for Las Vegas. Albany won the loose ball battle by an astounding 83-52 margin, with every player picking up at least one LB. One sore spot for Albany was on the power play where they went 0 for 9.
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“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk was formally introduced to box lacrosse when he attended a New England Black Wolves game on a whim in 2016. Instantly hooked, he has since become an avid follower of the National Lacrosse League. Following the postponement of the 2019-2020 NLL season, he was offered the chance to share his wealth of statistical knowledge and unique insights with the lacrosse community at large. He cheerfully accepted, and currently serves as Edge of Philly’s correspondent for both the Albany FireWolves and New York Riptide.