Aaron Bold has carried the load between the pipes for the Saskatchewan Rush throughout the season.
All that heavy lifting – a career-high 1,042 minutes of action – could very well be rewarded on Saturday night if the Rush are able to put a wrap on winning their second straight National Lacrosse League title. Should back-to-back Champion’s Cup crowns be bestowed upon the Rush, there’s a very good chance that Bold would add the playoff MVP honor thanks to his stellar shot-stopping in the Saskatchewan net.
Bold has posted a terrific 9.33 goals-against average plus a hot-handed .807 save-percentage during the three playoffs games so far. The numbers he has racked up in the current playoffs are even better than those he notched last spring when the Rush won the franchise’s first Cup Final – a 9.39 GAA and .786 SVP.
He’s been every bit “Stone Cold” Aaron Bold, not once cracking under the pressure and staying icy cool in keeping his team solidly anchored at the back end. Bold made 44 saves in Game 1 of the best-of-three Cup Final as the Rush stole an 11-9 win in Buffalo against the Bandits. Saskatchewan can claim the Cup when they host Game 2 on Saturday night at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.
“He’s been really excellent. He’s really focused and dialed in right now,” said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan. “He’s taken his focus up another level and been really good for us. He’s obviously been a really good goaltender for us for a number of years now.
“He’s a winner and he’s ramped his game up to another level in the playoffs.”
Bold has been with the Rush since being acquired from Rochester in 2012. The Victoria, B.C., native, who now lives in Edmonton, had a spectacular 2015 season during which he and Rush defenceman Ryan Dilks shared in winning the NLL championship, the Mann Cup national Senior ‘A’ title with the Victoria Shamrocks, and gold with Team Canada at the world indoor championship.
He was nominated for the NLL’s Goaltender of the Year Award a year ago (finishing second to five-time winner Matt Vinc), but this season, he and several of the NLL’s top netminders all struggled in bits and pieces. Bold has regained his footing in a big way during the playoffs, especially during the West Final when he was particularly on point in helping Saskatchewan shut down the big guns of the Calgary Roughnecks. Bold totaled 74 saves in the two-game sweep and held the Roughnecks to only two goals in four separate quarters.
Bold’s mental focus is key to his success and he’s come razor-sharp into the biggest games of the campaign.
“As a team our coaches do a great job prepping us for game-like situations on the floor and off,” said Bold. “As far as personal preparation, I just do the same thing as I’ve been doing for years the week following a game and days leading up to the match.”
Bold has been one of the biggest backers of the Rush players’ “brotherhood” approach in large part because his team was there was him in a big way a year ago. The goaltender’s partner Michelle was in a brave battle with cancer and all the “brothers” were there to lend their support. On top of that, Bold could rely on advice from coach Keenan who earlier had to deal with his wife Wendy’s courageous struggle.
A three-time Second Team All-Pro, including the past two seasons in a row, Bold is going save-for-save against another of the league’s best in Buffalo’s Anthony Cosmo in the Cup Final. In Game 1, Bold stopped all 14 shots he faced in the first quarter and then blanked the highly powered Bandits’ in the late going once the Rush had taken a two-lead in the fourth. As much as it might be tempting to try and individually outduel the rival, Bold is more focused on making sure he’s in the right place at the right time to the make saves for his teammates – the “brothers.”
“I like the feeling of big games and I don’t get more into it through other players I’m playing against. I play for my teammates – my brothers – because I know that they’re giving 100% and that gets me going,” said Bold.
By SaskRush.com. Photo by Josh Schaefer.