NLL: Wild home opener ends in disappointment for Albany FireWolves

Albany FireWolves mascot Alphie cheers on his team. (Photo credit: Albany FireWolves/NLL)

On Saturday night, the Rochester Knighthawks came into the Times Union Center and spoiled the celebrations of the Albany FireWolves’ first ever home game. The Knighthawks took down the FireWolves 16-7 in a game that was the first of an in-state clash between the two New York teams. The FireWolves fall to 0-2 while the Knighthawks stay towards the top of the East standings at 2-1.

Albany’s Tony Malcom opened up the scoring when he fired the game’s first goal past Rochester’s Rylan Hartley, a low-to-high shot on a transition break to give the new FireWolves their first-ever home goal. Malcom also scored the team’s first goal in their debut in Toronto two weeks ago.

A couple minutes later, Charlie Bertrand answered for the Knighthawks and then Holden Cattoni scored less than a minute later. The Knighthawks went on a four-goal run in the game until the FireWolves’ Andrew Kew scored towards the end of the quarter to end the first 4-2 for Rochester.

The second quarter’s scoring opened quickly when Rochester’s Curtis Knight scored in the first 17 seconds. Shortly after, Rochester’s Tyler Biles caught Jackson Nishimura with his head down and levelled him, prompting Colton Watkinson to stick up for his teammate. Watkinson got the better of Biles, jerseying him in the process.

The fight was followed quickly by another Cattoni goal. Rochester continued to stretch their lead as they went on another four-goal run. Albany scored once during the second quarter thanks to a powerplay goal by Jacob Ruest, but the second half would end with Rochester leading 8-3.

To continue with the quick scoring trends of the game, Shawn Evans opened the third quarter’s scoring less than two minutes in. Rochester outscored Albany 3-1 in the third, with Albany’s only coming off a rebound picked up by Joe Resetarits. which made the game 11-4 in favor of Rochester headed into the fourth.

With Rochester leading 11-4, there was no shortage of goals in the fourth with the Knighthawks piling on five more. Albany managed three, making it their most successful period of the game. Resetarits scored twice for the hat trick, while Cattoni added two more.

Ethan Woods vs. Rylan Hartley. (Photo credit: Albany FireWolves/NLL)

Things took a turn after Rochester’s 13th goal. Holden Cattoni and Curtis Conley got their sticks up at the bench which drew a crowd – most of the players on the floor – into the skirmish. Mike Byrne ended up taking Cattoni down to the ground and then tried to go with Thomas Whitty, who just pointed at the scoreboard.

But then, the goaltenders wanted in on the action. Although fighting in the NLL is a fairly common occurrence, a goaltender dropping the mitts is a rare sight, and hasn’t been seen in nearly 10 years.

Rochester starting goalie Rylan Hartley took down Albany backup Ethan Woods, who had taken over in goal for Doug Jamieson just 48 seconds prior. Needless to say, both men were tossed, so Jamieson returned to the net and Joel Watson entered the game for Rochester.

After the festivities wrapped up, a total of 74 minutes of penalties were assessed between the two teams.

The game was really a tale of two offenses. The Knighthawks’ offense was clicking on all cylinders while the FireWolves failed to really get anything going. The Knighthawks looked comfortable throughout the game which was helping them get great looks on goal. The FireWolves, who lost Callum Crawford in the offseason, appeared to lack the chemistry of the Knighthawks so it’s understandable that it may take the offense a bit of time to get going.

Holden Cattoni was the game’s first star of the night and was all over the arena for the Knighthawks. Cattoni recorded nine points with four goals and five assists which puts him at the top of the NLL’s points leaders list for the time being. He is currently second in the NLL in goals with 10 behind San Diego’s Dane Dobbie who has 11 so far. Shawn Evans was the second star of the night and was a key part of the Knighthawks’ offensive success. Evans is currently tied for third in the NLL in assists with 11 behind Jesse King with 16 and Matt Rambo with 12.

Albany’s brightest performance came from Joe Resetarits, who recorded a hat trick with all of his goals coming in the second half. Joe Nardella had a dominant performance in the face-off circle going 77% (21-27) during the game, continuing his argument for being one of the top face-off specialists in pro lacrosse.

Albany will head into 2022 searching for their first win as a franchise as they host the Saskatchewan Rush on Saturday, January 8th. On the same night, Rochester will host the defending NLL champs, the Calgary Roughnecks.