Aiming for another run at the NLL Cup, the Saskatchewan Rush launch their 2019-20 National Lacrosse League season on Friday night with a trip to Denver to take on the Colorado Mammoth.
The three-time champion Rush had their playoff hopes dashed a year ago by the Mammoth as Colorado captured the West Division Semifinal 11-10 in overtime. It was the first win for the Mammoth in Saskatchewan and their first in playoff action against the Rush. The loss ended the Rush’s quest for a second set of back-to-back championships, but the Rush have still dominated the Mammoth in recent action—a trend they’ll look to continue in the first of three matchups this season against Colorado.
Saskatchewan has won seven straight and 10 of its last 12 regular-season games against Colorado. The Rush earned their second straight season-series sweep over the Mammoth a year ago, and in doing so, upped their all-time regular-season record against Colorado to 25-17.
The Rush finished the 2019 NLL regular-season with an 11-7 record, good for top spot in the West (one game up on San Diego and Calgary) and fourth overall. Colorado wound up fourth in the West at 6-12 (one game up on Vancouver).
The Rush won a pair of 9-7 games against the Mammoth last season beginning with a February victory in Saskatoon behind three goals from Jeff Shattler, two from Mark Matthews and singles from Ben McIntosh, Marty Dinsdale, Chris Corbeil, and Brett Mydske. Two months later, the Rush won by the same score in Colorado as Ryan Keenan, Mark Matthews and Robert Church each scored a pair with singles going to Jeff Shattler, Scott Campbell, and Ben McIntosh. The Rush wrapped up the regular season with a 13-8 win over Colorado as they stormed out to an 8-0 lead and a halftime cushion of 11-1. Ryan Keenan (1 goal, 5 assists) and Marty Dinsdale (4 goals, 2 assists) each had six-point nights for the Rush. Mark Matthews posted a hat trick, Curtis Knight and Jeff Shattler both scored twice and Robert Church had one goal.
However, just a week later, Joey Cupido scored the overtime winner to lift the Mammoth to an upset victory in the West Semifinal. Ben McIntosh had a hat trick in the semifinal loss with Curtis Knight, Robert Church, and Jeff Shattler each scoring twice, and Mark Matthews adding one goal. The Mammoth went on to the West Division Final but were beaten 8-4 by the eventual NLL Cup champion Calgary Roughnecks.
MILESTONE MINUTE: A couple of Rush players could make a move on the team’s all-time leaderboard this season. Returning defenceman Ryan Dilks needs to play in eight games to move past Jimmy Quinlan into fourth spot on the team’s game-played list, while Ben McIntosh needs 19 assists this season to move into third spot on the team’s list past Curtis Knight.
HELLO & GOODBYE: Welcome additions to the Rush roster this year are all from the team’s recent draft stockpile – Holden Garlent, Justin Robinson, Austin Murphy, and Tanner Thomson. The Rush also welcome back Ryan Dilks and Jeff Cornwall who were absent from the club last season due to work commitments. Cornwall is unavailable for the season-opener but will play in the Rush’s home-opener on December 14th … An expansion draft, entry draft, and other moves resulted in some changes to the Rush roster from a year ago. The departed from the 2019 roster are: Nik Bilic (traded to Vancouver), Curtis Knight (selected by New York in expansion draft), Scott Campbell and Pete Dubenski (free-agent signings by Halifax), Brett Mydske (work commitment), Matt MacGrotty (released last season), and Nick Finlay (traded to Philadelphia) … A pair of familiar faces are now on the Colorado roster – fan favorite backup goalie Tyler Carlson and defenceman John Lintz are both former members of the Rush.