The Albany FireWolves (5-0) are the unlikely stars of the 2023-24 National Lacrosse League season. After going 3-15 last year, they have made an incredible turnaround to start this season 5-0 and now sit atop the NLL standings. This transformation is thanks to a group of talented rookies, exceptional leadership, and clutch performances that has the Capital Region fired up about this team.
The FireWolves have signature wins over the defending NLL Champion Buffalo Bandits, the Saskatchewan Rush in overtime, and the high-powered Halifax Thunderbirds. They will face their greatest test yet as they travel to play the Georgia Swarm (4-1) who have been on a tear in their last three games. It will be a fast-paced and high-stakes game at Gas South Arena in Duluth, GA this Saturday, January 13 at 7:30 pm ET.
Firing On All Cylinders
The FireWolves offense is 1st in the league in scoring with 67 goals in five games and features two players in the top 10 of NLL scoring. Rookie Alex Simmons is the current NLL leader in points with 32 (15G, 17A) and Ethan Walker sits at #4 with 30 (11G, 19A). Forwards Tye Kurtz and Travis Longboat are not far behind with the same stat line of 23 points (7G, 16A). Sam Firth was the hero last weekend with the game winning goal against Halifax and now has 18 points (6G, 12A) overall. Along with their deadly offense, the FireWolves defense came up big last game against Halifax with defenders Patrick Kaschalk scoring 2 transition goals and Joe Nardella scoring right off the faceoff. Albany’s defense has held teams to 10 goals in four out of five games. Repeating that against Georgia would put them in a prime position to claim another win and remain undefeated.
Youth Vs Experience
The Albany FireWolves have the youngest roster in the NLL with an average age of 25, but that hasn’t stopped them from playing with the poise and resilience needed to win games in this league. The leadership of head coach Glenn Clark, his coaching staff, captain Colton Watkinson, and assistant captains Nick Chaykowsky and Ethan Walker has allowed the young FireWolves to persevere and find ways to win. With 13 regular season games left, these leaders will be more important than ever to keep this run going. Georgia on the other hand is a team full of veteran players with seven who were a part of Georgia’s 2017 NLL Championship. After starting the season 1-1, the Swarm have found their stride once again. This game will be a great showcase of the emerging stars on the FireWolves going up against proven winners on the Swarm.
Scouting The Swarm
The Swarm’s potent offense features forwards Lyle Thompson and Shayne Jackson who Albany head coach Glenn Clark calls 100/100 guys as in they require “100 percent of your attention 100 percent of the time because they’re very skilled with or without the ball.” With the offense being a known commodity, it has been their defense that has surprised through five games. Led by goalie Brett Dobson, transition player Jordan MacIntosh, defenseman TJ Comizio, and defenseman Adam Wiedemann, the Swarm defense lives up to their mascot and literally swarm offensive players with perfectly timed double teams as well as knocking down passes. The Swarm are similar to the FireWolves in that they like to push the tempo and their offensive efficiency is through the roof early on this season.
FireWolves Players To Watch
Nick Chaykowsky played his best game of the season so far against Halifax with 11 loose balls, 3 caused turnovers, 1 blocked shot, and the empty net goal that sealed the win. The FireWolves’ assistant captain is among the elite defensemen in the NLL and his lacrosse IQ along with his knack for making the right play have helped steady the Albany defense.
Alex Simmons remains the front runner for Rookie of the Year and even NLL MVP. His goal scoring ability has been so crucial for the FireWolves and he continues to get more comfortable with each pro game played.
Travis Longboat has quietly been one of the most important pieces of the offense thanks to his willingness to sacrifice his body to dive for offensive loose balls and power his way to the middle of the floor to score huge goals.
Opposing Players To Watch
Shayne Jackson dropped 10 points (6G, 4A) last weekend against Panther City. The 2020 NLL MVP is a goal scoring machine and the FireWolves defense will need to limit his shooting opportunities as much as possible.
Lyle Thompson is no stranger to Albany area fans from his time starring for UAlbany and winning two Tewaaraton Trophies. He continues to prove why he is the best player in the world as he has started the season with 14 goals and 11 assists.
Brett Dobson is having a breakout season in net with an 80% save percentage and 10.34 goals against average, which is second among starting goalies. He is a very athletic goalie and has already made several jaw dropping saves that have landed him on Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays.
The Albany FireWolves vs Georgia Swarm will be available to watch on ESPN+, TSN+, and locally on MY4 this Saturday, January 13 at 7:30 pm ET. Following this matchup, the FireWolves return home to Albany to play the San Diego Seals at MVP Arena on Saturday, January 20 at 7 pm ET.
Single game tickets for the 2023-2024 FireWolves season are available now! Join us for Margaritaville Night on January 20th at MVP Arena and experience FireWolves lacrosse. 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.
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/