Church leads Rush to sweet revenge win over Bandits

Robert Church

NLL Photo

The Saskatchewan Rush exacted a measure of revenge on Friday night as they collected a 16-10 road win over the Buffalo Bandits.

It’s a win that the Rush (11-2) badly wanted after they had the Bandits (6-6) mount a furious comeback and steal an overtime win in Saskatoon back in January. Robert Church led the Rush’s emphatic statement performance as he scored six goals while Mark Matthews registered a goal and eight assists.

The Rush jumped out to a strong start as Church, Matthews and Ben McIntosh put together a three-goal run to put Saskatchewan up 5-2 after the first quarter. Church had two of the Rush’s first three goals on the night – his second coming as he darted towards the net and finished the play with a quick-stick strike on a feed from Matthews.

Saskatchewan soared further ahead in the second as Ryan Keenan utilized a screen in the slot and fired a laser to the top corner past Bandits goalie Alex Buque. Church picked up his hat trick and then quickly added his fourth of the game as he sent a rocket high past Buque to make it 8-4.

Church turned playmaker early in the third quarter as he was part of two terrific touch passes as Keenan found him at the side the net, and he then deftly set up Marty Dinsdale in front for his second goal of the game. A long-range sidearm shot from Jeff Shattler spotted the Rush to a 10-4 lead, and after Buffalo answered with a pair from Shawn Evans, the Rush’s offence got rolling again. McIntosh added to his highlight reel as he grabbed the rebound of a Matthews shot, darted behind the Buffalo net, and then tucked a soaring wraparound shot into the gaping net.

Before the third quarter wrapped up, Dinsdale earned his hat-trick tally on a quick-stick release of a Matthews pass to make it 12-6, and Keenan stormed to the net on stretch pass from Chris Corbeil, slotting the ball in with a powerful effort as he was being taken down from behind by the Buffalo defender.
The Bandits had some notions of a rally early in the fourth and did get Saskatchewan’s lead down to five at one point, but the comeback was snuffed out this time around when Jeff Shattler turned in a stellar individual effort, blowing past the Bandits defenceman and putting a shot into the far corner as he leapt towards the crease.

All that was left was the matter of pushing Church towards the coveted sock trick (six goals). He notched his fifth of the night busting hard to the net, snaring the Matthews pass and putting a high shot away. The sixth of the game came on a late Rush power play. Church found open space after a pass from Dan Dawson and rifled a shot past Buque.

Keenan and McIntosh both finished with two goals and three assists on the night.

Rush goalie Evan Kirk finished with 42 saves, including several stand-out stops in the first half.

Up next for Saskatchewan is a return engagement with the only other team that has beaten them this season. Next Saturday, the Rush host the Rochester Knighthawks at SaskTel Centre and the Rush will look to even the season series after the K-Hawks won 16-11 at home last month.