Justin Ivey, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
The Saskatchewan Rush (1-1) played their first home game since Game 3 of last season’s championship. They won that game on June 9, 2018 by the score of 15-10 and last night hoisted their third championship banner in four years before taking on the expansion San Diego Seals (1-2). After the banner was hoisted, rings handed out and the celebration concluded, there was a game to be played. The game did not play like a defending champion against an expansion team. Both offenses were in sync and highlight goals were frequent. The teams combined to go 7-8 on power play opportunities. Saskatchewan did just enough to hold San Diego at bay and come out with their first win of the season. Final Score: San Diego-12, Saskatchewan-16.
Saskatchewan and San Diego went back and forth in the first quarter, combining for a massive 11 total goals. The Seals struck first when Garrett Billings (2G, 4A), activated just a few days prior, stepped up from the corner and fired a low sidearm rocket past goalie Evan Kirk. Just 15 seconds later, Ben McIntosh (5G, 4A) ripped a shot in from outside to tie the game up. McIntosh needed only 25 seconds after his first goal to give Saskatchewan the lead. His quick stick from the crease after catching the cross-field pass beat Seals’ goalie Frank Scigliano. The lead was short-lived. Austin Staats (4G, 2A) was mauled by two defenders and drew a penalty. On the power play, Turner Evans (2G, 2A) tied the game at two. In less than five minutes of action, the 13,713 fans at the Sasktel Centre had already witnessed four goals. San Diego rolled with the momentum and just about two minutes later; Kyle Buchanan (2G, 3A) dove from the side of the cage and twisted in a goal. Quick transition from the Rush gave Jordi Jones-Smith (1G) the opening to score his first NLL goal with 6:27 remaining in the first. The scoring took a short break following that goal and for the next three and a half minutes the score remained tied 3-3. The last three minutes of the quarter was packed with five goals. Staats scored on a power play opportunity with 2:58 remaining, giving the Seals the lead. McIntosh answered just over a minute later finishing a beautiful spin move with his hat trick goal. 27 seconds later, Ryan Keenan (1G, 3A) gave the lead back to the Rush. With just 28 seconds left on the clock, Staats scored another power play goal, but Matthew Dinsdale (1G, 5A) scored with the extra attacker and only three seconds left on the clock. At the end of the first, Saskatchewan led San Diego 6-5.
The back and forth continued in the second quarter. San Diego tied the game 3:14 in on a goal from Adrian Sorichetti (1G).
Reigning MVP Mark Matthews (2G, 3A) gave the lead back to the Rush 5:45 in, but Billings tied it up with his second goal of the game just over two and a half minutes later. Jeff Shattler (4G, 1A) answered for Saskatchewan with 6:07 remaining in the half, and Curtis Knight (1G, 4A) scored next with 4:18 left, giving the Rush their largest lead of the game – just two goals. Dan Dawson (1G, 4A) brought San Diego back within one, scoring with 39 seconds remaining, but again Saskatchewan used the extra attacker on the final possession and went back up two after another second quarter goal from Matthews. At the half, Saskatchewan led San Diego 10-8.
An early penalty on Saskatchewan gave San Diego the first good opportunity in the second half, but instead of scoring they gave up a shorthanded goal to Shattler 3:01 in. Bad penalties on the Seals allowed Saskatchewan to score the next two goals of the game on the power play. A goal from McIntosh 6:06 in was followed by another from Shattler 1:39 later. With 7:15 remaining in the third quarter, the Rush stretched the lead to 13-8 with some hard-nosed lacrosse. San Diego did not roll over. Evans scored his second of the game with 3:23 remaining and Staats scored his hat trick goal with 2:57 remaining to get the Seals back within three at the end of the third. At the end of three Saskatchewan led San Diego 13-10.
Saskatchewan stretched the lead to four just 57 seconds into the final quarter on Shattler’s
fourth goal of the game. Buchanan scored his second of the game 3:24 in, but the Rush were not going to allow a comeback. Saskatchewan measured every possession for the remainder of the game. They took opportunities when they presented themselves but used as much of the shot clock as possible each possession. With 6:24 remaining, rookie Connor Robinson (1G, 1A) capitalized on one of those opportunities and put the Rush up 16-11 with his first NLL goal. Staats scored his fourth of the game on the power play with 13 seconds remaining, but there was not enough time to mount a comeback. Final Score: San Diego-12, Saskatchewan-16.
The Saskatchewan Rush (1-1) visit the Vancouver Warriors (1-3) on Saturday, January 12 at 10:00 PM EST.
The San Diego Seals (1-2) host the Rochester Knighthawks (1-1) on Saturday, January 12 at 10:00 PM EST.
Justin Ivey, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©