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Buffalo wins Game 2 15-13 to clinch Back-to-Back Titles; Byrne is Finals MVP

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The NLL Quarterfinals See Four Top Seeds Advance

The NLL Quarterfinals kicked off with a Saturday night triple header. The top seeds in each game moved on, although for the Bandits and Seals it took overtime. The opening round wrapped on Sunday with a young FireWolves’ squad defending their turf in the Empire State. Read on for our recap of each game.

 

The FireWolves Young Stars Continue To Light Up The Sky

The inaugural weekend of the NLL postseason drew to a conclusion Sunday afternoon in the state capital of New York, as the Albany FireWolves easily dispatched the Halifax Thunderbirds 9-3. After Halifax’s Clarke Petterson leveled the score at 1-1, late in the first, Albany took charge of the affair upon coalescing on three consecutive second-stanza scores, advancing the tally to 4-1, a lead the home squadron would never come close to relinquishing. John Wagner capped off the drubbing with back-to-back final quarter goals, sealing the six-goal achievement for the FireWolves. Wagner and teammate Travis Longboat finished with two goals aside, while the tremendous young trio of Alex Simmons, Ethan Walker and Tye Kurtz combined for three goals and three assists.

Albany goalkeeper Doug Jamieson was otherworldly in this one, holding the normally high-powered Thunderbirds to just three goals, amid knocking down 52 of the 55 flares hurled his direction. 

Halifax net watchman Warren Hill did his best to keep his club in the mix, allowing a respectable seven goals on 54 Albany attempts (two FireWolves scores were on an empty net). The previously noted Petterson secured two of the Thunderbirds’ three goals, with Austin Shanks serving as the only other Nova Scotian to have his name engraved on the goal portion of the stat sheet.

Albany moves on to the NLL Semifinals and a best-of-three showdown with the San Diego Seals. 

 

Bandits and Swarm Was a Game For the Ages 

KeyBank Center in Buffalo was the setting for a clash of contrasts as the defending champion and battle-tested Bandits hosted a Georgia Swarm franchise that hadn’t seen the postseason since 2019. With this back story at play, the nearly 18,000 lacrosse loving fans in attendance observed the hometown Bandits survive the visiting Swarm 10-9 in overtime. This game was something else! 

A back-and-forth first half concluded with the teams hitting the halftime stoppage all squared at 5-5. Buffalo hit the ground running in the third quarter, scoring three straight to take an 8-5 lead. Undaunted, Georgia returned the favor with four consecutive blasts of their own, re-establishing the margin to 9-8. A Kyle Buchanan lamplighter tied the contest 9-9. Then, in the very closing seconds of the fourth, the incomparable Dhane Smith appeared to win it with an absolute rocket as time expired, only for officials to wave off the craziness upon declaring the ball crossed the line a split second after time had expired.

In the OT session that followed, the Swarm had plenty of chances but Matt Vinc was square to all of them. Then, 4:01 into the extra frame, the legendary Josh Byrne scorched his fifth goal of the night, propelling Buffalo to the 10-9 celebration. The New Westminster, BC native is now the proud possessor of 20 goals in his last five playoff appearances. 

The dynamic duo came to play: Byrne’s five goals was perfectly complemented by Smith’s six assists. 

Here’s Byrne’s OT winner:

On the Swarm side of the equation, Andrew Kew secured three scores and two helpers, with Brendan Bomberry capturing a hat trick to go along with one assist. The iconic Lyle Thompson showed up for five total points, but the guys from the South could not quite seal the deal in this one. 

 

The Seals Survive The Relentlessness of Panther City

The Pacific Time Zone entry into the opening night of NLL playoff action transpired in beautiful San Diego, as the number two seeded Seals endured an onslaught of full-sized Panther City uppercuts, winning this battle of the titans 9-8 in overtime. This conflict was a nailbiter from the opening faceoff onward, as neither of the squads ever laid claim to more than a one-goal spread. A low-scoring second half, involving just four total goals, progressed the event into overtime, only to see one of the greatest clutch performers in league history dazzle the fans with yet another memorable dose of enchantment. 

Dane Dobbie scored the night’s very first and very last goal, with his OT game-winner resulting in a hat trick and the 80th score of his sterling postseason career.

Austin Staats was just as spectacular, connecting on four goals, including a behind the net beauty that contained his helmet flying off, followed by a boisterous celebration sans headwear.

Dobbie, Staats and Curtis Dickson (two assists) combined for 44 of the Seals’ 63 shots on goal. Teammate Wesley Berg was in a sharing mood, delivering five assists to his Seals’ cohorts.

The protagonist of the Lone Star State effort was Panther City goalie Nick Damude, who stood in the way of 54 shots. By comparison, San Diego stopper Christopher Origlieri only had to snare 37 projectiles that came his way. Damude deserved better than what the final outcome read. 

NFL legend/regular Seals’ game attendee Drew Brees was on hand for this thrill ride of emotions. 

 

The Rock Keep the Good Times Rolling

The 2024 NLL postseason premiered at FirstOntario Centre in downtown Hamilton where the top-seeded Toronto Rock hosted the miracle men, otherwise known as the Rochester Knighthawks. Coming off a regular season that witnessed Toronto’s brilliance and Rochester’s inconsistency, the postseason matchup was much the same with the 15-3 Rock outlasting the 8-10 Knighthawks 9-6.

Toronto came out of the gates in blazing fashion, jumping out to a 4-0 lead 3:46 into the festivities, with the first two scores coming 11 seconds apart, courtesy of Challen Rogers. Rochester cut the lead to 5-3 in the second, followed by the home team extending their grip to 6-3 at halftime. By the time the middle part of the fourth quarter showed itself, the Rock advanced their lead to 9-4, allowing them to cruise to the 9-6 triumph.

The aforementioned Rogers finished with two goals and three assists, while Tom Schreiber and Chris Boushy added two goals each, with the great Mark Matthews donating one score and three helpers to the opening round potion. Rock goaltender Nick Rose was excellent throughout, getting in the way of 51 shots, only letting six balls fly past him.

Watch this insane off-hand goal from Tom Schreiber:

Ryan Smith posted a hat trick for the Knighthawks, with Connor Fields coming back to Earth from the brilliance of last weekend, as his night ended with one goal and three assists.

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