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GAME 1 MATCHUP PREVIEW – FIREWOLVES AT BANDITS

The Albany FireWolves return to action this Saturday to kick off the 2022-23 season on the road in Buffalo, New York at 7:30 p.m.  Albany will face a Bandits team who eliminated them in the first round of the playoffs during their last trip to Western New York last season.  The FireWolves finished their inaugural season with a 9-9 record, entering the playoffs on a three-game win streak prior to falling to the top-seeded Bandits.  With a new look offense this season, Albany will need to find and establish its offensive identity right out of the gate to keep pace with the firepower of Buffalo. The game can be watched on My4 Albany or ESPN+.

The Bandits enter the new season with the bad taste after dropping games two and three of the championship series following going up a game on the eventual champions, the Colorado Mammoth.  Buffalo was the best team throughout the entirety of the NLL season, finishing with a league-best 14-4 record, the Goalie of the Year, and the league MVP. The FireWolves were bested by the Bandits in all three matchups last year and will look to right the ship with the first game of the season.

FireWolves Players to Watch: 

Charlie Kitchen, though only entering his sophomore season, will be heavily leaned on as the FireWolves look to find its offensive identity after parting ways with the team’s top five scorers from a season ago.  Kitchen had himself a nice debut season, notching 22 total points on 14 goals and eight assists in his 15 regular season appearances.  Interestingly enough, Kitchen also tied the franchise record with two shorthanded goals in a single game in an 8-7 victory over the Halifax Thunderbirds.  Kitchen wowed fans with some circus shot goals during the season, and the FireWolves will need him to continue to be a key offensive contributor in order to keep pace with the Bandits this weekend.

Doug Jamieson, to no surprise, had another stellar season as the FireWolves netminder a year ago.  The former Goaltender of the Year finished fourth in the league with 675 saves while boasting a mere 10.34 GAA.  “Dougie” is the backbone of a stout FireWolves defense and will be relied upon heavily on a nightly basis to keep opposing players out of the back of the net.  There will be no warmup game for Jamieson as he faces the tough test of a high-powered Bandits offensive unit, but he has proven to be up to the task and will be an X-factor in this one.

Brett Manney is a leader that the FireWolves and Capital Region lacrosse fans can rely on showing up each and every night.  Though he may not get the credit because he is not known as a goal scorer, Manney serves as the FireWolves captain and leads the team’s solid defense.  With the FireWolves discovering a new offensive identity early on in the new season, Manney and the defensive unit will be heavily relied on to shut down opposing offense.  Manney has been with the organization since 2014 and is one of the most tenured and experienced players across the NLL.  Look out for Manney to be a staple in the FireWolves defense as they work to limit opportunities for the Buffalo forwards. 

Opposing Players to Watch:  

Dhane Smith is a guy who will be a handful for any defense, and the FireWolves have certainly seen just how good he can be.  In the three total games last season (including playoffs), Smith tallied 20 points on seven goals and 13 assists.  He was a menace all season, earning himself league MVP honors while leading the league in total points (135), assists (94) and finishing eighth overall with 41 goals.  Smith is someone who can create for himself, but also dish it as well as anyone in the league.  Albany will have their hands full with the reigning MVP and must find a way to slow him down if they want to start the new season with a 1-0 record on the road. 

Josh Byrne is the 1B to Smith in the Buffalo offense.  Another top-10 scorer a season ago, Byrne finished with 99 total points on 37 goals and 62 assists.  Byrne did the bulk of his damage against the FireWolves last season by setting up his teammates for goals.  In the three games against Albany, Byrne finished with nine assists.  He has the ability to score, but he excels at finding the open man for easy goals.  Albany will be faced with the tall task of slowing down both Smith and Byrne – something that they have to figure out on Saturday to come away victorious.

Goaltender Matt Vinc seems to win Goaltender of the Year nearly every season and did just that for the eighth time last year.  The keeper led the league in wins (14) and saves (747), and limited Albany to just 24 total goals in three matchups last season.  Albany will have a new-look offense to start the season and must find a way to get high quality shots on Vinc early and often in this one.  Vinc has been frustrating opposing offenses for well over a decade and the FireWolves must remain patient and persistent in effort to keep up with Buffalo on the scoreboard.  

This will be the first of two regular season matchups between Albany and Buffalo this season.  The Bandits will visit the Capital Region for a season finale in a matchup that will surely have playoff implications on the line.

Fans can secure their tickets now for the 2022-23 FireWolves regular season opener on Saturday, December 17 against the Rochester Knighthawks!  For more information regarding tickets, visit www.AlbanyFireWolves.com or call/text the FireWolves front office at 518-362-4900.

About Albany FireWolves

The Albany FireWolves is the Capital Region’s very own Professional Box Lacrosse team, playing in the National Lacrosse League out of the MVP Arena in downtown Albany, NY. For more information, contact the Albany FireWolves Front Office at (518) 362-4900 or visit AlbanyFireWolves.com. Follow the team on Facebook at facebook.com/AlbFireWolves, Twitter @AlbFireWolves, and Instagram @AlbFireWolves.

About the National Lacrosse League

The National Lacrosse League (NLL) is North America’s premier professional lacrosse league. Founded in 1986, the NLL ranks third in average attendance for pro indoor sports worldwide, behind only the NHL and NBA. The League is comprised of 15 franchises across the United States and Canada: Albany FireWolves, Buffalo Bandits, Calgary Roughnecks, Colorado Mammoth, Georgia Swarm, Halifax Thunderbirds, Las Vegas Desert Dogs, New York Riptide, Panther City Lacrosse Club (TX), Philadelphia Wings, Rochester Knighthawks, San Diego Seals, Saskatchewan Rush, Toronto Rock, and Vancouver Warriors.

For more information, visit NLL.com and find @NLL on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For more information visit NLL.com.

About ASM Global

ASM Global is the world’s leading venue management and services company. The company was formed by the combination of AEG Facilities and SMG, global leaders in venue and event strategy and management. The company’s elite venue network spans five continents, with a portfolio of more than 325 of the world’s most prestigious arenas, stadiums, convention, and exhibition centers, and performing arts venues. From Aberdeen to Anchorage, and Sydney to Stockholm, its venues connect people through the unique power of live experiences. ASM Global’s diverse portfolio of clients benefit from the company’s depth of resources and unparalleled experience, expertise and creative problem solving. Each day, the company’s 61,000 passionate employees around the world deliver locally tailored solutions and cutting-edge technologies to deliver maximum results for venue owners and amazing experiences for guests. By consistently looking for new ways to envision, innovate and empower the spaces and places that bring people together, ASM Global elevates the human spirit while delivering the highest value for all stakeholders. For more information, please visit www.asmglobal.com.

About MVP Arena

MVP Arena is a full-service entertainment and sports facility featuring a wide variety of family shows, sporting events, trade shows and concerts. Owned by Albany County and managed by ASM Global, MVP Arena opened in 1990 and is home to the Albany FireWolves of the National Lacrosse League, the Albany Empire of the National Arena League and the Division I Men’s College Basketball Siena Saints. For more information, please visit https://www.mvparena.com/.

Albany FireWolves