FireWolves Book Ticket To The NLL Championship

For the first time ever, the Albany FireWolves are heading to the NLL Championship after downing the San Diego Seals 13-10 on Sunday afternoon in the NLL semifinals.

And what a turnaround it has been for the FireWolves. They are now competing for a championship after finishing dead last a year ago with a 3-15 record. Bringing in young guns like Tye Kurtz and Alex Simmons has been invaluable as the team looks for its first league championship.

Game 1 of the championship goes on May 17 in Albany against the Buffalo Bandits. The FireWolves hold home-floor advantage as the third-ranked team taking on the fourth-ranked team for the title.

As for San Diego, it is another year of “what if.” San Diego finished second in the standings with a record of 13-5, yet was bounced out of the playoffs for another year.

Mac O’Keefe returned to the lineup on Sunday afternoon and, after sitting for Game 1, the Seals dressed Brodie Merrill and Kyle Jackson. With aging players like Dane Dobbie (who became the NLL all-time leading playoff goal scorer), Curtis Dickson, Merrill and Kyle Rubisch, it makes one wonder what San Diego’s next step will be to get over the hump.

San Diego could also be without Austin Staats to begin next year. He was assessed a match penalty at the end of this game after losing his cool.

Seals Get Off To A Good Start

San Diego jumped out to a 2-0 lead right off the bat as they looked to force a third and deciding game. Tre Leclaire opened the scoring. Thirty seconds later Austin Staats added a marker.

Albany’s resilience came through as they went on a three-goal run to finish off the first quarter. Simmons found the back of the next at 6:55 followed by Sam Firth on the powerplay at 11:06.

Travis Longboat rounded out the scoring with 1:27 left on the clock as the FireWolves led 3-2 after 15 minutes of play.

San Diego Plays Catchup

Leclaire potted one 2:49 into the second quarter on transition. Goaltender Chris Origlieri picked up the assist to tie up the game 3-3.

Albany bounced back off a goal from Kurtz at 3:21 as the FireWolves regained the lead.

Frustration then set in for the Seals. Eli Gobrecht picked up a cross-checking call and he added two more minutes in the sin bin for having extra words for the official. The FireWolves capitalized on the four-minute power play with a goal from Ethan Walker at 6:04.

Penalty troubles continued to plague San Diego as Simmons scored on the power play at 9:31 to round out a three-goal run for Albany.

Curtis Dickson got San Diego back on the board on the power play with 1:50 left on the clock. Staats rounded out the scoring with 24 seconds remaining. However, Albany led 6-5 at the half.

Seals Can’t Sustain Pressure

Dobbie scored at 2:27 to open the third quarter. However, San Diego could not keep the momentum going.

Longboat put in his second of the game at 3:11 followed by Kurtz shorthanded at 4:56 to put the FireWolves up 8-6.

Longboard struck again for his hat trick goal on the power play at 7:08 to round out another three-goal run.

Dickson replied on the power play at 12:19, but Simmons scored on the man advantage with 40 seconds left on the clock. Albany held a 10-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Albany Off To The NLL Championship

Walker scored 1:06 into the fourth quarter to put Albany a step closer to the championship berth.

Staats replied back on the power play at 4:44, but once again San Diego could not put together a run of goals.

Kurtz scored his hat trick marker unassisted at 7:43 before the Seals finally put a run together. Dobbie scored to become the NLL’s all-time playoff goal-scoring leader, overtaking John Tavares. Staats then found the back of the net at 9:51 to make it 12-10.

Colton Watkinson iced the game with 1:55 left on the clock to give Albany the 13-10 win to punch their ticket to the NLL Championship.

Top Scorers

Albany FireWolves

Tye Kurtz, 3g 6a

Alex Simmons, 3g 4a

Ethan Walker, 2g 4a

San Diego Seals

Tre Leclaire, 2g 3a

Curtis Dickson, 2g 3a

Dane Dobbie, 2g 2a

Austin Staats, 4g

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Shawn Slaght
Shawn Slaght

Shawn Slaght has been a sports reporter across the Canadian prairies for over 10 years and has experience covering everything from junior hockey to World Cup skiing to all levels of lacrosse. He is the Saskatchewan correspondent for All Lacrosse All The Time.