Aaron Bold saved his best saves for the most important time of the season.
“Stone Cold” was just that during the 2016 Champion’s Cup playoffs. The Saskatchewan Rush goaltender was sensational during his team’s run to their second straight National Lacrosse League title which culminated on Saturday with an 11-10 win over the Buffalo Bandits and a sweep of the best-of-three Cup Final series.
Bold’s playoff numbers were staggeringly good. He played every minute of the Rush playoff games, and of course, won them all to finish a perfect 4-0. The veteran netminder led all his counterparts in every statistic with stellar numbers – a 9.50 goals-against average, .812 save-percentage, and 164 total saves.
He was especially sharp when his team needed him the most, and those efforts undoubtedly earned him the honor of Champion’s Cup MVP.
“In the fourth quarters we needed him to make saves and he made them all and even more. He was unbelievable, incredible,” said Saskatchewan’s Ben McIntosh, who also had a strong playoff showing in leading the Rush with 10 goals.
Bold’s fourth-quarter heroics were most evident in the deciding game of Cup Final. With the Rush trailing 9-7, they got the key goals they needed – a power-play tally from Mark Matthews, a pair from Robert Church coming just 56 seconds apart, and obviously, the series-winner from Jeff Cornwall with 12 seconds left in regulation. But Bold was the difference-maker as he held the potent Buffalo offence at bay. He allowed just one goal in the fourth, robbed record-setting scorer Dhane Smith with just a minute left, and then stoned Ryan Benesch on the Bandits’ final chance.
The save on Smith was particularly poignant as it ultimately paved the way to Cornwall’s clincher. Had he not come up with the key stop, the last minute of Game 2 would have even more pressure-packed for the Rush.
“He made a lot of big saves but that one was huge,” said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan, who acquired Bold in a trade with Rochester prior to the 2012 campaign.
“(The playoffs) is the best he’s ever played. He had a bit of an up-and-down season but for these last four games he was just dialed in and we needed it because Buffalo brought it to us. A lot of it had to do with Dhane but their whole offence was the hardest one we’ve played against. But Aaron had the answer every time.”
Bold made 47 saves in Game 1 of Cup Final and mustered 44 in Game 2. He faced two of the NLL’s best offences in the playoffs but didn’t allow more than 10 goals as the Rush closed out Calgary in the West Final and then the much-ballyhooed Buffalo shooters.
“He was amazing. He’s our backbone,” said the Rush’s Kyle Rubisch, who is central cog part of Saskatchewan’s vaunted defence.
“He played so well for a number of years in this league but he was just great in the playoffs. And he’s such a great guy. I just can’t say enough about him.”
Statistically Speaking: Rush star forward Mark Matthews, who was the Cup MVP a year ago, finished tied for second in playoff scoring with 22 points and tied for first with 14 assists. Robert Church wound up tied for fourth in scoring with 20 points … Behind Ben McIntosh in Rush goal-scoring were Mark Matthews, Robert Church, and Zack Greer, who all notched eight goals … Rush all-purpose standout Jeremy Thompson finished second with 37 loose ball pickups and second with 57 faceoff wins (53.8%) … Rush defenceman Ryan Dilks led the playoffs with 11 forced turnovers, followed by Rush captain tied for second with eight, and Kyle Rubisch tied for fourth with seven.
By SaskRush.com. Photo by Josh Schaefer.