The Saskatchewan Rush evened their record at 2-2 in the early going of the 2017 National Lacrosse League season as Robert Church scored four goals, Jeff Cornwall posted a hat trick, and Mark Matthews counted eight assists in a 16-12 romp over the Vancouver Stealth on Friday night.
Saskatchewan went 5-for-7 on the power play, including a trio from Church who now has a league-leading 10 goals on the man-advantage. The Rush’s second victory in a row came before a crowd of 14,502 at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.
Both teams engaged in a fast-paced first quarter that featured two of Church’s power-play tallies, the second of which came when he collected a loose ball in front of the net and tucked a shot behind Stealth goalie Tyler Richards. The Rush closed the first quarter with three goals all coming on quick transition plays. Cornwall got his first of the night on a breakout, Jeremy Thompson put a shot through Richards’ legs on a breakaway, and Cornwall counted his second and gave the Rush a 6-4 lead as he ran past the Vancouver defense and slipped a shot inside the post.
The pace slowed at the start of the second quarter but then picked up when both teams ran into penalty problems. Adam Jones posted his second of the period with a slick sidearm shot to put the Rush up 9-6, and Curtis Knight followed 28 seconds later as he made a great move to get open in the slot and then tucked the ball behind Richards. Adrian Sorichetti put the Rush up 11-7 just before half when he took a sneaky pass from Thompson, went hard to the net, and put his lunging shot home.
Knight put the Rush ahead 12-8 midway through the second quarter, taking a spectacular backhand pass from Matthews and slotting his shot into the net. With the assist, Matthews reached the 400-point plateau for his career in only 74 regular-season game. Cornwall completed his hat trick in the third as he used his blazing speed to dart in and pick the corner with his shot.
The Stealth rallied in the fourth, although sandwiched in between Vancouver goals was Church’s fourth of the game on a brilliant individual effort. Church chased the play down behind the Stealth net, stripped defenseman and former teammate John Lintz of the ball, then slithered around the post and tucked the ball into the gaping net. Vancouver regained momentum and got the Rush lead down to three on Corey Small’s hat-trick goal with just under five minutes remaining. But the Rush stood their ground the rest of the way, and rounded out the scoring when Ryan Dilks potted an empty-netter with 1:50 left.
Marty Dinsdale and Ben McIntosh also scored for the Rush, while goalie Aaron Bold mustered 34 saves.
The Rush are back on the turf next Saturday when they resume the Battle of the Prairies with a trip to Calgary to square off against the Roughnecks.