The National Lacrosse League’s top division leaders will clash on Saturday night at SaskTel Centnre as the West Division front-running Saskatchewan Rush host the league– and East Division-leading Buffalo Bandits.
Saskatchewan comes into the game holding a three-game winning streak. The Rush had a bye last week but their last outing saw them smash the Calgary Roughnecks 15-9. That win has the Rush and San Diego Seals tied for top spot in the West with a one-game lead over Calgary.
Buffalo had a doubleheader last weekend that left the Bandits with a 12-11 overtime victory over Philadelphia, but then their six-game winning streak ended the following night with a home-turf loss to Georgia. The weekend split left the Bandits with a 1 1/2 game lead in the East over Toronto.
The Rush split last season’s two games with the Bandits, gaining a measure of revenge on the road after a gut-wrenching home defeat. Saskatchewan let leads of 6-0 after one quarter and 9-3 at halftime slip away and ended up losing a 16-15 decision in overtime on Pat Saunders’ game-winner. Ben McIntosh and Robert Church each posted hat tricks in the loss with Mark Matthews, Chris Corbeil and Ryan Keenan adding two goals each. Rounding out the Rush scoring were Mike Messenger, Jeremy Thompson, and Jeff Shattler with a goal apiece.
A return engagement in Buffalo was a different story as the Rush thoroughly dominated on their way to a 16-10 win behind a six-goal sock trick from Robert Church. Mark Matthews posted one goal and eight assists while Mary Dinsdale put up a hat trick. Ryan Keenan, Jeff Shattler and Ben McIntosh each potted two goals and Evan Kirk racked up 42 saves.
The two teams met just once in 2017 with Saskatchewan notching a 17-14 home-turf victory behind hat tricks from Ryan Keenan and Adam Jones. Scoring twice for the Rush were Curtis Knight, Mark Matthews, Adrian Sorichetti and Ben McIntosh with Mike Messenger, Robert Church and Marty Dinsdale adding a goal apiece. That game was the first since the Rush and Bandits collided in the 2016 Champion’s Cup Final with the Rush winning the second straight league title with a stunning two-game sweep in the best-of-three series.