An early barrage and a late surge pushed the Saskatchewan Rush to a 15-9 victory over the Calgary Roughnecks at SaskTel Centre on Saturday night.
It was a clutch win for the Rush (6-4) as they remain in first place in the hotly contested West Division of the NLL and also earned them a measure of revenge after Calgary (5-6) defeated them just four weeks ago on the turf in Saskatoon.
“It took a lot of hard work,” said Rush forward Jeff Shattler, who notched a hat trick plus four assists for a seven-point night. “They got the better of us last time they were here and we had to come out and prove something.”
A free-for-all first quarter was kickstarted by two goals from the Rush’s Ryan Keenan, and after a shorthanded goal by Calgary’s Zach Currier, the Rush re-ignited themselves with two goals just 22 seconds apart. Mark Matthews got the shorthanded goal back for Saskatchewan on the same power play when he rifled a shot past Christian Del Bianco from the slot, and that was followed Curtis Knight putting home a pass from Shattler to make it 6-3. The goal was the first of two on the night for Knight, who returned to his usual forward position after turning in yeoman efforts on defence the past two games.
The Rush continued to ride the momentum early in the second quarter with Marty Dinsdale, who whipped in a sidearm shot, and Shatter putting them Rush up 8-3 with goals 23 seconds apart. A timeout afforded the Roughnecks a chance to regroup, and they did just that as goals by Curtis Dickson and Dane Dobbie cut the Rush lead. But Saskatchewan’s Mike Messenger ended the Calgary charge and Shattler counted his second of the night completing a feed from Knight to make it 10-6 at halftime.
Calgary kept things close through a tightly contested third quarter, but the Rush tore the game open in the fourth. Shattler turned playmaker again and it resulted a highlight-reel tally. The 14-year veteran gunned a pass behind the Calgary where Matthews snared it, then dived low towards the post and tucked a backhand in with one second left on the shot clock.
Shattler made it 13-8 with his hat-trick tally as he raced off the bench and grabbed a breakaway pass from Matt Hossack to beat Del Bianco for a shorthanded strike. The Rush finished the visitors off with a pair of goals from Robert Church – the first coming on a nifty backhand flip pass from Dinsdale.
“It was a tough, physical game and those are the kind of game when it’s really good to come out on top,” said Keenan, who added to his two-goal goal with a second-quarter fight against Calgary’s Eli Salama.
“It makes it that much better that it was against a division rival. That was a full-team effort and a big win for us.”
Ben McIntosh had a goal and five assists for the Rush, while netminder Evan Kirk finished with 32 saves to pick up his 50th career victory.
Dickson (3 goals, 3 assists) and Dobbie (3 goals, 4 assists) paced the Roughnecks, and Del Bianco turned aside 43 shots.
The Rush wrap up a three-game homestand next Saturday against the Buffalo Bandits, while the Roughnecks start a two-game homestand against the Toronto Rock.