By Jeremy Pike | Staff Writer
Photo Credit: Micheline Veluvolu
The Saskatchewan Rush (4-2) defeated the Rochester Knighthawks (2-4) 21-12 in front of 7,194 fans at the Blue Cross Arena Saturday night. Robert Church led all scorers with 11 points (4+7) while rookie Josh Currier led the Knighthawks with a four-goal night. Saskatchewan extended their winning streak to four games with the victory.
“I think we’re getting better every game,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan. “I think we had a bit of a slow start tonight in the first half. They brought it pretty hard at us. I thought second half, we got back to playing better defensively, taking care of transition a little better at the same time pushing our game the other way.”
To say the game was a tale of two halves would be an understatement. Rochester led at the end of the first quarter 4-3 and at halftime 8-7.
“It was probably our best first half of the yeah,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “Defensively, we were doing what we wanted to do, disrupting them a bit, had lots of energy on the floor, especially that second quarter. We were pushing the ball well. Offensively, we got them spread out, which is what we wanted to do that first half.”
Currier continued his high-quality rookie campaign, completing his hat trick 8:29 into the second quarter before adding his fourth goal in the waning minutes of the game.
“He’s quick, he constantly is moving in the middle, getting outside,” Hasen said. “He’s got a great shot too, and he’s changing his shot every time he shoots. It’s tough for goalies to get a good read on him. He’s doing a lot of little things right.”
“He was outstanding tonight,” said forward Dan Dawson. “He was definitely our best player on the floor. To be honest, he only played probably half the game because he was our in-home and he was in the penalty box probably for at least a quarter. So what he did, every time he shot the ball it was going in. He was our hottest player tonight. This league is tailor-made for him and he’s only going to get better.”
Rochester got quality contributions on the scoreboard all around to go with Currier’s outburst during the first half. There was a familiar face on the score sheet in forward Cory Vitarelli, but there were some unexpected names. Defensemen Scott Campbell, John Rae, and Graeme Hossack and transition player Andrew Suitor all scored in the first half.
“We had a lot of energy back there tonight,” Hasen said. “Guys you don’t normally expect to have that. That’s the kind of tempo that we want to play, we’ve just got to play it for 60 minutes.”
“The first half was obviously ideal for us,” said Suitor. “The second half, not so much. This is a game of runs, and unfortunately their run was a heck of a lot bigger than ours today.”
However, the Rush were in that exact situation last weekend, trailing the Calgary Roughnecks 8-7 at the half. The Rush went on to win that game too.
“Second half is part of the learning curve with some young kids,” Hasen said. “We can’t lose our self-control, that’s what happened tonight. . . We kind of melted down. One thing we said at the end of this one, in situations like that, we need our leaders to lead. We still have a bunch of veterans in that room, and we need them to grab the young kids and lead by example. Make sure we right the ship as soon as we possibly can. Tonight we didn’t get that.”
“I think Sid (Smith) said it best, when you let your guard down against any team in this league, that’s what happens,” Dawson said. “We’ve got to get away from those five-minute lulls where teams are burying four, five goals and they get that spread on us. We have to mitigate and stop those runs th teams go on when we feel the pressure. Tonight we just didn’t do that. The onus is on our best players, and you can point the finger right at me. I’m not playing very well right now. My job is to produce, and I’m not producing very well right now.”
On the other side of the floor, Saskatchewan definitely got production out of some of their top names in Church and Mark Matthews, who had a 10-point night (4+6).
“I thought we had balance tonight,” Keenan said. “Spread it from both sides of the floor. Defensive guys scored a few. Lots of real nice plays. We executed our power play when we had to, which has been really good for us this year because we’ve had our struggles in the past. I thought we stayed disciplined. All in all, pretty good effort.”
Not only did the Rush dominate on the scoreboard, but they spent less time in the penalty box than Rochester (34 minutes compared to 51) and went 24-37 on face-offs which created more chances.
“The big thing I would say with face-offs is don’t get scored on,” Keenan said. “We got a couple of our own tonight and they’re backbreakers. It’s a big part of the game, but its not the biggest part. It’s not like field lacrosse where you can hold on to the ball for five minutes. It’s a possession game where you’ve got 30 seconds. Jeremy (Thompson) is really good, Mike Messenger got in there and did a good job too.”
The Knighthawks return to the BCA Saturday February 18 to take on the Toronto Rock while Saskatchewan returns home on the 18 to host the Colorado Mammoth.