“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk – All Lacrosse All The Time, a Division of the Edge of Philly Sports Network
The Albany FireWolves traveled to Key Bank Arena in Buffalo Saturday night to play the Bandits in the season opener for both teams. Last time these two teams met, the Bandits won a low-scoring affair to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Buffalo’s roster remained mostly intact over the offseason. However, for this game they would be without the services of forward Chase Fraser (injured reserve) and captain Steve Priolo (scratched due to illness).
Meanwhile, the FireWolves experienced a significant rebuild during the offseason. However, the new-look offense came out swinging, taking an early 4-1 lead. The Bandits tied the game late in the 4th, but the FireWolves defense held on for an 11-10 road victory.
Grit and Goals
Tehoka Nanticoke (3g, 1a) opened the scoring for Buffalo, beating Albany goalie Doug Jamieson at 4:48 of the first quarter. The FireWolves would respond with a four-goal run into the second quarter to silence the Buffalo crowd. Tanner Thomson (2g, 5a) got Albany on the board at the 6:29 mark. New offensive acquisitions Connor Kelly (2g, 4a; 7:20) and Ethan Walker (2g, 1a; 9:42) made it 3-1 in favor of Albany after the first quarter.
Kelly (1:06 second quarter) would net his second goal on a power play before a solo effort from Ian MacKay (1g, 1a; 5:33) ended the FireWolves’ run. A minute and a half later, Josh Byrne (2g, 3a; 6:56) cut the deficit to one. Walker (8:18) tallied his second of the game but Kyle Buchanan (2g, 1a; 9:17) struck back to trim Albany’s lead to 5-4 at halftime.
FireWolves Bring The Smoke
The third quarter began with 2022 draft pick John Piatelli (1g, 2a; 5:09) scoring his first career NLL goal to push the FireWolves lead back to two. Byrne (7:34) tallied his second on a power play, but Albany answered with another three -goal run. Hiana Thompson (1g, 1a) dunked one from behind the net at 9:10. Kieran McArdle (2g, 2a), acquired from the New York Riptide in the offseason, scored his first goal in a FireWolves uniform just 22 seconds later. Tanner Thomson added his second of the night at 10:07, giving the FireWolves a 9-5 lead. Nanticoke’s second (13:56) and Chris Cloutier (2g, 3a; 14:33) closed the gap to two with 15 minutes left to play.
The final frame began with back-to-back goals from Buchanan (3:02) and Nanticoke (3:30) to tie the game at 9. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Nanticoke’s goal would prove costly. He was penalized for goalie interference after bowling over Jamieson on his crease dive, then got into a brawl with Albany’s top 2021 draft pick Patrick Kaschalk. Kaschalk was assessed a game misconduct penalty, but Nanticoke was ejected from the game.
McArdle (7:16) would notch his second goal of the game with a beautiful no-look shot on the ensuing power play. Colton Watkinson (10:14) followed in transition to restore a two-goal lead for the FireWolves. Cloutier (13:50) danced along the crease to score his second and narrow the margin to one. But time ran out as Kelly kept four Bandit players, including goalie Matt Vinc, from regaining possession of a loose ball deep in Buffalo territory.
Other Stats of Note
Dhane Smith (BUF): 5a
Doug Jamieson (ALB): 44 saves
Joe Nardella (ALB): 15 of 25 on faceoffs; 17 loose balls (led all players)
Buffalo (0-1) travels to Hamilton on Saturday 12/17 to play the Toronto Rock. Albany (1-0) opens their home schedule against the Rochester Knighthawks the same evening.
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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.