They don’t face each other all that often, but there’s still something special about a tilt between the Saskatchewan Rush and Toronto Rock.
The cross-Canada treks hit a new level of animosity when they clashed for the 2015 NLL championship, a best-of-three series that the Rush conquered to claim their first league title. It’s a rivalry that has grown since then, and despite the infrequency of head-to-head matchups, the Rush still view a test with the Rock to be amongst the season’s highlighted games.
The Rock will make their first visit to Saskatoon since 2017 this Saturday to take on the Rush.
“It seems they are always tough, physical games, and we’re not expecting anything different this time around,” said Rush GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan.
Toronto comes in after dropping their last outing 9-8 setback in Halifax which left the Rock tied for second in the North Division. Saskatchewan is headed in the opposite direction, having won three in a row and the Rush have knocked off division leaders on back-to-back weekends. Two weeks ago, they survived an overtime thriller in Halifax and then last Saturday, Ryan Keenan, Ben McIntosh and Jeff Shattler each notched hat tricks as the Rush topped Philadelphia 15-10. Both of those wins came on the road and the Rush sport an impressive 5-0 mark away from SaskTel Centre.
Rush captain Chris Corbeil is certainly up for the game and the Oakville, Ontario, product knows there’s a lot at stake. For starters, there’s the opportunity to keep a solid grip on first the West Division, not to mention a much-anticipated chance to even the Rush’s home-turf record this season. And since the Rush and Rock have met only one time each season since 2017, it’s a 60-minute showdown for bragging rights.
“Games against the Rock are always special for the Ontario guys on our team,” said Corbeil. “Many of us grew up watching the Rock dynasty of the early 2000’s and dreaming of playing in the NLL ourselves. Tack on the fact that the Rock are one of the top teams in the NLL this season and competing with us for the Alterna Cup, and it’s no surprise that our team is so excited for the game on Saturday.”
The Rock and Rush have split their last four games with Toronto taking last year’s clash at home 16-13 behind an eight-point night from Adam Jones. Two years ago, Shattler made a terrific first impression on his new Rush teammates. In his first game with Saskatchewan, the 2011 MVP and Transition Player of the Year notched eight points (2 goals, 6 assists) as the Rush won 17-9 in Toronto.
Saskatchewan enters the game riding the hot hand of Ben McIntosh (15 goals in his last 5 games), the magical hands of Mark Matthews (2 goals, 13 assists in the past two games), and the criminal hands of Ryan Dilks (league-leading 22 caused turnovers).
Meanwhile, Toronto boasts Rob Hellyer’s league-leading 29 goals, Challen Rogers, who leads all NLL defenders with 22 points, and ageless wonder Dan Dawson, the future Hall of Famer who has 17 goals on the year.