A big early lead and then a late charge were the difference-makers for the Saskatchewan Rush on Saturday night.
The Rush built up a 5-0 advantage in the first quarter, withstood a handful of comeback bids by the Vancouver Warriors, and then finished things off with a fourth-quarter surge on their way to a 14-10 win at Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver. The victory was the Rush’s first on the road this season, while the Warriors dropped their fourth straight game.
“I thought our guys were thinking it was going to be easy and that’s why Vancouver got back in it and made it a game,” said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan.
“But we’ll take the win and learn from it. We’ve got to play the whole game.”
Ben McIntosh racked up his second consecutive five-goal game and finished with eight points in the Rush’s winning effort, while Mark Matthews collected seven points (2 goals, 5 assists), and Robert Church registered six assists as he returned to the lineup after missing the last game due to injury. Their work helped the Rush go 3-for-3 on the power play as well.
Saskatchewan opened the scoring just 17 seconds into the game. After capturing the faceoff, Jeremy Thompson took a pass from Matt Hossack and then fired a shot past goaltender Aaron Bold. Just 30 seconds later, Marty Dinsdale gunned one over Bold’s shoulder to make it 2-0. Matthews put the Rush ahead by three when his hard shot caught a chunk of Bold but still had enough on it to trickle across the line. Less than two minutes after that, McIntosh whipped a shot around the defender and in. Down four in less than five minutes, Warriors coach Chris Gill had seen enough and Bold, the former Rush netminder and Champion’s Cup MVP, was given the hook.
The change in net gave the Warriors some life, and after Jeff Shattler gave the Rush a 5-0 lead, Vancouver responded with a trio of goals, including a pair just 56 seconds apart.
“It’s weird when that happens. You think you’re going to run away with things and then they score three in two minutes,” said McIntosh. “Lacrosse is a game of swings. We took our foot off the pedal and they made us pay but we were able to get it back.”
Early in the second quarter, back-to-back power-play opportunities produced goals for the Rush and a pair of milestones in the process. McIntosh counted his 300th career point as he put away a quick-stick strike on a feed from Matthews. On the next man-advantage, Shattler notched his 300th career goal as he was the recipient of a sensational behind-the-back pass from Matthews followed by a quick-stick finish. Still, the Warriors showed some resiliency, scoring goals nine seconds apart and then answering again after Ryan Keenan snapped in a pass from Marty Dinsdale.
The Warriors tied the game 8-8 just a minute into the third quarter but it was the last time Vancouver would be close. McIntosh connected for his hat-trick marker to make it 9-8 as he unleashed a sidearm rocket that zipped past Warriors goalie Eric Penney. Only 1:26 later, McIntosh notched his fourth of the night with a stylish power-play effort. McIntosh, who is one of nine Vancouver-area raised players on the Saskatchewan roster, snared a pass from Church and then dived out from behind the net and tucked the ball in.
Saskatchewan dominated the final frame, getting things rolling with a Curtis Knight goal that survived a coach’s challenge video review. Knight, standing right at the top of the crease, caught a pass from McIntosh and quickly put it off the crossbar and down across the goal line. Matthews gave the Rush a three-goal cushion with a bounce shot through Penney’s legs and then Dinsdale deflated the home side as he outhustled four defenders to circle behind the net and slam a dunk shot in. McIntosh rounded out the Rush scoring on an empty-netter.
Rush goalie Evan Kirk was steady throughout and especially solid in the opening half, finishing the game with 40 saves.
On top of the milestones for Shattler and McIntosh, another Rush member reached a high-water mark as Thompson became only the fourth player in NLL history to record 1,500 faceoff wins in regular-season play.
The Rush are back on their home turf next Saturday in an NLL Cup rematch as they take on the Rochester Knighthawks.