“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk
Lax Philly – A Division of Edge of Philly Sports Network
The Albany FireWolves matched up with the Buffalo Bandits at Key Bank Arena on Saturday in a first-round playoff game. The FireWolves rode a three-game win streak into the playoffs, while the top-seeded Bandits were just 1-3 in their last four games. In a defensive battle of attrition that probably came as a surprise to no one, the Bandits used a third quarter scoring surge to pull away with a 10-5 victory.
Nothing Given, Everything Earned
Albany struck first as Reilly O’Connor (2g, 2a; 9:17) beat Buffalo netminder Matt Vinc on a power play. Less than a minute later (10:08), Dhane Smith fired a shot that trickled past Albany goalie Doug Jamieson. Action remained end-to-end throughout the frame, with both defenses stealing the showcase.
The second quarter would play out much the same as the first. Joe Resetarits (3:42) gave Albany the lead once again, and Buffalo would equalize with Ian MacKay (13:00) in transition. The first half ended in a 2-2 tie, with goal scoring at an immense premium.
The second half saw the Bandits come out firing immediately, with Smith (2g, 4a) notching his second 14 seconds in. Josh Byrne (2g, 2a) followed at 1:32 to make it 4-2. Jacob Ruest (1g, 1a; 3:48) then beat Vinc from long range to cut the lead to one. Byrne (8:04) and O’Connor (9:05) would each tally their second before Connor Fields (2g, 2a; 11:16; power play) would restore Buffalo’s two goal lead at 6-4 heading into the final frame.
Chris Cloutier (1g, 1a; 1:08) extended the Bandits lead to three, but Albany would continue to press the pace at every turn. Five and a half minutes into the quarter, Buffalo defender Steve Priolo was whistled for handling the ball in the Buffalo crease. This resulted in a penalty shot for Albany, per Rule 60.2. Ryan Benesch attempted the penalty shot, but Vinc stood tall, denying a chance to close the gap.
Colton Watkinson (10:19) would cut Albany’s deficit to two, but Fields (12:31) would get his second of the night to make it 8-5 in favor of the Bandits. As time wound down, Jamieson would be pulled for an extra FireWolves attacker, but Albany would get no closer. The Bandits closed out the scoring with empty net goals from Frank Brown (13:20) and Priolo (14:01).
Buffalo will host the Toronto Rock at the Key Bank Center next week, in Game 1 of a best-of-three series to determine the East bracket finalist.
3 Stars of the Game
- 1st Star: Matt Vinc (45 saves)
- 2nd Star: Josh Byrne (2g, 2a)
- 3rd Star: Steve Priolo (1g, 1a; led all players with 14 loose balls)
Other Stats of Note
- Power Play: ALB 1 of 2; BUF 1 of 2
- Joe Nardella (ALB): 11 of 20 on faceoffs
- Doug Jamieson (ALB): 49 saves
“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.