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Nick Chaykowsky and the FireWolves are 5-0 to start 2023-24.

NLL Power Rankings: Young But Mighty FireWolves Steal No. 1 Spot

January 8, 2024
Jack Goods
Mike Kirschbaum/NLL

The Albany FireWolves are fittingly red hot.

The squad, which finished last in the standings in 2022-23, makes its first appearance atop the National Lacrosse League power rankings after a fifth straight victory, a feat it has accomplished without first-overall pick Dyson Williams, who is preparing for his final NCAA season at Duke.

Other young guns have made up for his return to college for another year, pointing toward a potentially glorious future for the franchise.

Do they have enough to compete for a title this year?

1. Albany FireWolves (5-0)

The FireWolves may be young, but they proved Saturday they can handle adversity. Albany saw a 7-4 lead slip away, as the Halifax Thunderbirds mounted a 6-1 run that stretched from the second quarter into the fourth, but responded with a game-closing 4-0 spurt for a 12-10 victory. Sam Firth scored the winner with 6:17 remaining, while Alex Simmons continued to add to his Rookie of the Year candidacy with a five-point night. As the current league leader in points, could he win MVP, too? Last week: 2

2. Toronto Rock (3-0)

The Rock had the weekend off to prepare for an exciting matchup at Halifax on Friday. Last week: 1

3. Georgia Swarm (4-1)

Shayne Jackson was involved in nearly all the Swarm’s scoring, notching 10 points on six goals and four assists in his team’s 12-10 win against Panther City. That stat line included the eventual winning tally, with a long transition pass from Bryan Cole helping him secure the sock trick. Andrew Kew added five points, while Lyle Thompson had a hat trick. Last week: 4

4. San Diego Seals (2-1)

San Diego will play twice next weekend, first at Las Vegas on Friday and then at Colorado on Saturday. Last week: 3

5. Rochester Knighthawks (3-1)

The K-Hawks face a major “prove-it” opportunity Saturday when they host their rival Buffalo Bandits. Two recent trades for goalies — including a swap with Buffalo that brought Doug Buchan to the Flour City — do not bode well for the health of Rylan Hartley. Last week: 5

6. Buffalo Bandits (2-2)

The Bandits never trailed in a rematch of last year’s NLL Finals, going up 6-0 in the late stages of the second quarter as part of a 12-8 win against the Mammoth. Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith each had seven points, with Smith continuing to serve as a master facilitator. He’s up to 24 assists, a league high. Brad McCulley returned from a one-game injury absence and displayed his value with six points. Last week: 7

7. Halifax Thunderbirds (2-2)

The Thunderbirds flirted with handing Albany its first loss, with Austin Shanks putting the team up 12-10 with 14:26 remaining in the fourth quarter. However, that marked the end of Halifax’s offense as a result of Albany’s Doug Jamieson shutting the door down the stretch. Three of Randy Staats’ five points came in the late 6-1 T-Birds run, while four of his teammates put up four points apiece. Last week: 6

8. Calgary Roughnecks (1-2)

The Riggers visit Vancouver Saturday night in a critical early matchup for both teams. Last week: 10

9. Philadelphia Wings (2-3)

The Wings shared positive news prior to their game with the Riptide, with both Blaze Riorden and Holden Cattoni back in the fold following injuries. However, absences on the defensive side — including Ryan Wagner, Mitch Armstrong and now Marcus Minichiello — continued to haunt Philadelphia in a 16-9 defeat. The shorthanded unit has allowed at least 15 goals in three straight games while Zach Higgins has been peppered with shots. Last week: 8

10. Colorado Mammoth (1-3)

The Mammoth scored 10 goals or fewer for a third time this season, tying their previous low of 8 against Buffalo. Only Las Vegas has a worse goals-per-game mark. After getting pulled in favor of Tyler Carlson last week, Dillon Ward played his first full game since returning from injury. He made 45 saves. Last week: 9

11. Panther City Lacrosse Club (1-3)

Nick Damude was chased after 17 minutes against Georgia, with backup Cam MacLeod somewhat settling things down. He and the rest of the PCLC defense will have to survive without captain Matt Hossack, who was placed on injured reserve on Saturday. Last week: 11

12. Vancouver Warriors (1-3)

The Warriors host Calgary Saturday night at Rogers Arena. Last week: 12

13. Saskatchewan Rush (1-3)

The Rush head East for a meeting with Philadelphia on Saturday. Last week: 13

14. New York Riptide (1-3)

Finally, the Riptide received major production from their top two offensive weapons. Jeff Teat and Connor Kearnan accounted for nine and seven points, respectively, as New York got into the win column against Philadelphia. Teat nearly matched his atypically quiet production from the first three games, having come into the night with just 13 points. The group never trailed again after a 4-0 run in the second quarter broke a tie at 4. Last week: 15

15. Las Vegas Desert Dogs (1-3)

The Desert Dogs face a steep test when they welcome San Diego into Michelob Ultra Arena Friday. Last week: 14