Shawn Palmer, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
The Saskatchewan Rush (6-2) made their way to the Wells Fargo Arena in front of 9,683 fans to face the Philadelphia Wings (7-4) in a matchup of first place teams in the West and East divisions respectively. Both teams were coming off winning weekends, and they both hoped to increase their division leads on Saturday night. The Rush were able to grab a lead in the second quarter and maintain through the remainder of the game, answering every Wings comeback attempt. Final Score: Saskatchewan-15, Philadelphia-10.
The Rush opened the scoring less than a minute into the game as Mark Matthews (1G, 8A) flipped the ball to a cutting Ryan Keenan (3G, 1A) whose shot beat Wings goaltender Zach Higgins (14 saves) to the low glove hand side making. Philadelphia tied it up on the power play as Kevin Crowley (1G, 3A) fired a behind the back pass to Brett Hickey (2G, 1A) who beat Rush starting netminder Evan Kirk (40 saves) through the legs. Kiel Matisz (1G, 1A) gave the Wings their first lead of the game as he took the ball across the top and fired a hard-overhand shot around a pick. Ben McIntosh (3G, 3A) answered for the Rush less than a minute later as he picked up a rebound that went right off Higgins’ mask. His laser of a shot went under Higgins’ arm and just rolled over the line. The first attempt stunned Higgins and he couldn’t get set for the follow. Blaze Riordan (2G, 2A) restored the Wings lead at 3-2, as he received a nice flip pass from Kevin Buchanan (1A) coming through the middle and scored on a high to low shot. Less than thirty seconds later Keenan netted his second of the game as he broke around his defender and beat Higgins over the shoulder to tie it back up at three. Matthews faked that he was going to go high and the defender bit; he changed direction and cut towards the net firing a shot that hit the cross bar before ricocheting just across the goal line off the back of Higgins’ head. The 4-3 lead for the Rush remained through the end of the quarter. The shots on goal at the end of the first quarter were 16 for Saskatchewan and 14 for Philadelphia.
Jeff Shattler (3G, 2A) opened the scoring in the second quarter thirty seconds in as he received a nice skip pass from McIntosh and quick sticked in a bounce shot short side. On an ensuing Rush power play, Robert Church (2G, 3A) received a pass in the middle from Shattler and his quick stick shot was deflected by a defender to careen around Higgins and give the Rush a 6-3 lead. McIntosh followed with his second of the game firing a bar down goal around a screen. The fifth Saskatchewan goal in a row chased Higgins in favor of Brandon Miller (22 saves). Wings’ defender Steph Charbonneau (2G) picked off a pass in the defensive end and took it the full length of the floor to end the Rush run, beating Kirk over the shoulder to make it 7-4. Charbonneau scored his second goal in a row off a rebound shortly after to cut the deficit to two. Saskatchewan came right back with McIntosh firing a laser of an overhand shot for this hat trick goal to bring the lead back to three. Miller had saved the first six shots that he had faced allowing the Wings to get back into the game. At the end of the first half the Rush led the Wings 8 – 5, and shots on goal were 28 for the Rush and 24 for the Wings.
Saskatchewan opened the scoring in the second half as Keenan fired a shot around a screen that Miller got most of, but the shot was able to spin just over the line giving Keenan his 200th career point and the Rush a 9-5 lead. The Rush came right back as Matthews cut across the top and fed Shattler who was open in front for a quick stick shot through Miller’s legs. The Wings got one back as Crowley launched a high to low shot from the top getting the Wings within four at 10-6. Josh Currier (2G, 1A) came right back and fired a shot to the outside of Kirk’s elbow beating him to the far side and cutting the Rush lead to three. The Rush stopped the Wings run as Shattler received a pass from Matthews again along the top and scored his hat trick goal. In transition, Riordan came off the bench and got a pass from Ryan Wagner (1A) and finished five hole. At the end of the third quarter the Rush lead the Wings 11-8. The shots on goal were Philadelphia-42 and Saskatchewan-38.
The Wings scored first in the fourth quarter when Currier grabbed a rebound that was bouncing in the crease and shot it to the open side as he was falling to cut the Rush lead to two. Connor Robinson (1G, 1A) got that one back a few minutes later as his high to low shot beat Higgins to the stick side bottom corner. Austin Murphy (1G) cut around his defender and with his offhand threw a backhand shot that Miller got a piece of but couldn’t stop as it went off his glove and in. With just over a half quarter left in the game, the Rush now led 13-9. The Wings found themselves on a two-man advantage and Hickey’s five-hole goal from outside cut the deficit to three with the opportunity for another man up goal. They couldn’t capitalize in the minute remaining on the penalty. With less than three minutes left in the game the Wings pulled their goalie for the extra attacker and they found good ball movement. Currier received a pass from Riordan at the side of the net and fired a quick stick shot, but Kirk had fallen and moved the net. The Rush’s Chris Corbeil (1G) picked up the loose ball and deposited into the empty net. The Wings challenged because of the displaced net but lost so the Rush kept the 14-10 lead. On another power play the Rush moved the ball around and Church blew a shot past Miller on the short side to increase the Rush lead to 15-10 and bring us to our final. The final shots were 50 for Philadelphia and 49 for Saskatchewan.
Philadelphia went 2 for 4 on the power play while Saskatchewan went 2 for 3.
Trevor Baptiste (14 LB) dominated the faceoff circle going 22 for 30.
Top Players for Saskatchewan:
Mark Matthews – 1G, 8A
Ben McIntosh – 3G, 3A
Jeff Shattler – 3G, 2A
Top Players for Philadelphia:
Blaze Riordan – 2G, 2A
Kevin Crowley – 1G, 3A
Brett Hickey – 2G, 1A
The Philadelphia Wings (7-4) travel to play the Colorado Mammoth (5-6) on Saturday, February 29 at 9:30 PM EST.
The Saskatchewan Rush (6-2) will host the Toronto Rock (6-3) on Saturday, February 29 at 8:30 PM EST.