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The Saskatchewan Rush overcame a terrific performance by rival goaltender Dillon Ward to earn their fifth straight win as they slipped past the Colorado Mammoth 8-7 in Saskatoon on Saturday night.
The Rush (5-2) now hold a 1½ game lead over Colorado (4-4) in the NLL’s West Division as they beat the Mammoth for the seventh time in the last eight meetings between the teams.
Ward was outstanding throughout the game as he totaled 45 saves, including 16 in the third quarter. But the Rush struck for three straight goals in the fourth quarter to escape with the victory before a sold-out crowd of 15,047 at SaskTel Centre.
Saskatchewan opened up on a hot streak with three unanswered goals in the first quarter. After a Ben McIntosh goal got the Rush on the board, captain Chris Corbeil scooted away on a two-on-one break and zipped a shot behind Ward to make it 2-0. The Rush went up 3-0 when Mark Matthews grabbed a pass in front of the net and outmaneuvered Ward before slipping the ball home.
Less than two minutes into the second quarter, the Rush went ahead 4-0 on a power-play goal by rookie Ryan Keenan. With his assist on the goal, Rush forward Adam Jones reached the 400-point plateau in his NLL career. But that was the last of the good news for Saskatchewan in the first half as the Mammoth, who were playing without offensive catalysts Zack Greer, John Grant Jr., and Jeremy Noble, turned up their game and scored four goals in a span of 2:02 to tie the game.
A hot shot from outside by Callum Crawford got Colorado going with a shorthanded goal, and Jacob Ruest cut the lead in the half with a power-play marker. Newcomer Stephen Keogh, who was acquired by Colorado earlier in the week in a trade with Rochester, notched his first goal with his new club to make it 4-3, and Brent Adams then tied the game with a fantastic individual effort. Adams drove towards the net, went airborne over the crease, and shot back across his body to beat Rush goalie Aaron Bold.
Saskatchewan’s Adrian Sorichetti and Colorado’s Adams exchanged goals in third, leaving the teams tied 5-5 heading into the fourth.
Ruest gave the Mammoth a 6-5 advantage just 35 seconds into the final period with a solo showcase as he angled his way past two Saskatchewan defenders and thrust a shot past Bold. The Rush were finally able to get to Ward, who had stymied several prime scoring chances. Rush transition John Lafontaine scooted down the turf in transition off an over-and-back call, delivered a pass to late trailer Curtis Knight coming off the bench, and Knight whipped in a shot to bring Saskatchewan even 6-6.
The Rush jumped ahead 7-6 on a delayed penalty call when Mark Matthews rifled a pass to the edge of the crease and McIntosh perfectly timed his quick-stick shot past Ward. Colorado attempted to call for a review of the goal but failed to get their challenge flag out within the allotted time. Saskatchewan created a two-goal bulge with 13 seconds left as both teams pulled their goals during a Colorado power play. Jeff Cornwall buried a shot into an empty net and it turned out to be a critical insurance goal as the Mammoth’s Eli McLaughlin sent a rocket over Bold’s shoulder with Colorado still on the man-advantage with four seconds to go. Saskatchewan’s Jeremy Thompson won the ensuring faceoff to lock up the win for the Rush.
The Rush are back on their home turf next Saturday night as they engage in another edition of the Battle of the Prairies as they host the Calgary Roughnecks.