The Saskatchewan Rush are back-to-back NLL champions following an exhilarating 11-10 win over the Buffalo Bandits in front of 15,182 fans at a sold-out SaskTel Centre on Saturday night. In a game in which neither team led by more than two goals, the decisive marker came in the waning seconds on a Jeff Cornwall transition breakaway.
The Bandits opened up a 4-3 lead in the first quarter. Saskatchewan scored twice 36 seconds apart to take a 2-0 lead early before Buffalo went on a three goal run to grab a 3-2 lead. Ben McIntosh tied the game for the Rush, but Dhane Smith answered for the visitors.
Curtis Knight tied the game for the Rush at the 4:11 of mark of the second quarter. Alex Kedoh Hill scored for the Bandits and Zack Greer scored for Saskatchewan with 4.7 seconds to go in the second quarter and sent the teams into the half 5-5. The tie marked the third time in the championship series that the score was even to end a quarter.
The game was just as tight in the second half.
Nick Weiss and Ryan Benesch gave the Bandits another two goal lead before McIntosh and Greer tied the game again at 7-7. Mark Steenhuis and Smith gave Buffalo a 9-7 lead going into the final quarter of game two. The third quarter also featured a missed penalty shot by Greer on Anthony Cosmo.
The Rush netted three straight goals to open the fourth quarter and took a 10-9 lead with less than five minutes to go in regulation. Kevin Brownell scored to tie the game at ten. With less than thirty seconds to go, Rush defender Jeff Cornwall scooped a rebound on a Buffalo shot that went wide and ricocheted off the boards. He found himself on a 2-on-0 breakaway and buried his shot far side with 12 seconds to go and seal the win for his team.
Saskatchewan overcame a fourth quarter deficit in both games to win the NLL Finals, 2-0.
Mark Matthews (2+4) and Robert Church (2+4) led the Rush with six points each. Knight (2+3) notched five points. Smith led Buffalo’s runners with six points.
Rush goaltender Aaron Bold took home playoff MVP honors and was stellar in net again, stopping 47 of the 57 shots he faced. Cosmo stopped 43 of 54 in the loss.
By Steve Bermel for NLL.com. Photo by Josh Schaefer.