The Albany FireWolves are the Halifax Thunderbirds’ kryptonite.
Entering Week 15, Halifax had beaten every team they played this season except for Albany. Friday night hey fell 8-7 at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, N.S. They also lost to Albany on Jan. 29 by a score of 8-6 in Albany, N.Y.
“We didn’t play our normal game in the second half. I thought in the first half we played really good. The second half we got a little bit complacent,” said the team’s head coach, Mike Accursi. “They scored three shorthanded goals; that should never happen in this league, so for me, that was the difference. And offensively, we couldn’t get the ball going. We were logging it from the outside and we’re not going to score on Dougie (Jamieson) like that. We got away from our game plan. The nice thing is we get to get back at it tomorrow and do it right.”
(spoiler alert: they lost Saturday night in Georgia, too)
The game was tight to start; both defences were not allowing many scoring opportunities. Albany’s Joe Resetarits scored the only goal of the opening quarter. He had the ball on the left side, ran to the top of the offensive zone and ripped a shot past Halifax goalie Warren Hill.
The game opened up in the second quarter. Albany scored a minute in. Andrew Kew had the ball from the left side and shot it past Hill’s glove to make it 2-0.
Austin Shanks answered for Halifax two minutes later. He had the ball at the top of the offensive zone. Stephan Leblanc set a pick for him that blocked him from the view of Albany’s goalie Doug Jamieson. Shanks fired it around the screen and Jamieson couldn’t react to it fast enough.
Chris Boushy tied it up with a gorgeous goal. He received the ball in the slot to the left of the net. He was on his backhand and would have to move the ball across his body to get it to his forehand. However, he flipped his stick around his back and scored. It was the highlight of the night.
Brett Manney scored for Albany while Austin Shanks and Cody Jamieson scored to give Halifax a 4-3 lead. Shawn Evans assisted on both those goals for his first points as a Thunderbird. Halifax acquired the two-time MVP this week to load up on offence in the back-half of the season. He played a playmaking role in this game, being up high and trying to find passing lanes for teammates.
“It’s going to take some time for (Evans) to get to gel and get used to the guys he is playing with,” says Accursi. “I know it’s just a matter of time, but you know we need better from him and we need better from all of (the forwards).”
Evans and the rest of the players were unavailable to talk after the game because the team had to quickly leave to fly to Atlanta, Georgia to play the Georgia Swarm the following night.
Shanks completed the second quarter hat trick with a minute left in the quarter. Graeme Hossack took the ball up and stopped up high on the right side to give the offence time to set up. He didn’t wait very long. Shanks got open running down the left side and received a pass from Hossack and immediately shot and scored.
Albany scored in the dying seconds of the half. Hill made a left pad save and thought the ball went behind him and he didn’t move but looked back. However, the rebound went to his right where Jacob Ruest collected the rebound and scored.
At the end of the first half, Halifax was up 5-4 and led 31-24 in shots.
Albany once again opened the scoring in the third quarter. While shorthanded, Charlie Kitchen pushed up against his defender forcing him to fall down. With the defender on the ground, Kitchen spun and scored.
After Joe Resetarits scored, Kitchen added another shorthanded goal. This time he split the defence and ran in on goal to score, putting Albany up 7-5 at the end of the third quarter.
“I think our defence did a good job, but again, those three shorthanded goals should never happen,” says Accursi.
The FireWolves kept on coming in the fourth quarter. In transition, the ball got passed back to Reilly O’Connor who was wide open in the high slot while running towards the net. He scored to make it 8-5 for Albany.
For most of the fourth quarter, Halifax couldn’t penetrate inside Albany’s defence. Most of their shots came from the outside where Jamieson could see and save them. The FireWolves had some point-blank chances but Hill stopped them to keep the Thunderbirds in the game.
“We were taking the easy route on offence. The hard work gets you into the middle and gets those shots, which we were getting in the first half and we were getting away from that. So we start taking the easy route, which is the route they want us to do and Dougie is going to stop those all day long. We got off our game plan,” says Accursi.
With two minutes left, Cody Jamieson passed the ball to Clarke Petterson at the side of the net for a Halifax goal. With 18 seconds left, Kyle Jackson picked up the loose ball in the slot and scored to get Halifax within one.
But that was as close as the Thunderbirds would get. Albany got possession off the faceoff and won the game.
Warren Hill stopped 34/42 shots for Halifax, while Doug Jamieson stopped 47/54 shots for Albany. Albany scored on one of their two chances on the power play while Halifax went two for five.
The loss drops Halifax’s record to 8-2 and elevates Albany’s to 6-7. The loss also breaks Halifax’s six-game home win streak. The Thunderbirds play the Georgia Swarm on Saturday night, while the FireWolves also play Georgia but at home next Saturday.
“We have to play like the way we should be playing,” says Accursi. “It takes a 60-minute effort, it takes a concerted effort to do all the hard work that makes it successful for us and we got away from that in the second half.”