A five-goal run and five power-play goals powered the Saskatchewan Rush to a 12-7 victory over the Rochester Knighthawks in a return engagement between last year’s NLL Cup finalists on Saturday night.
After dropping their season-opener, the Rush (3-1) have now won three in a row. It’s the exact opposite for Rochester (1-3) as the Knighthawks have lost three straight since winning their season lid-lifter.
Holding a tight one-goal lead at halftime, the Rush went on a tear in the third quarter, holding the Knighthawks off the scoreboard while netting five goals of their own, including Mark Matthews’ hat-trick tally.
“Up 6-5, getting the looks we did, our offence can have anyone go off at any time,” said Matthews, whose third came on a rocket from the top off the slot. “It was just a good team win. We’ve been trying to get better every week and we’ve been doing that.”
Marty Dinsdale bumped the Rush lead to 8-5 after a well-placed feed from Jeff Shatter. The Rush then got back-to-back goals from leading scorer Ben McIntosh, the first coming as the two teams toiled 4-on-4. Just 66 seconds after that goal, McIntosh pocketed his second of the night and 15th of the season with his patented quick-stick finish at the side of the net. The goal was also Saskatchewan’s fifth power-play marker of the night.
The Rush put a charge into a crowd of 13,590 at SaskTel Centre as they went up 11-5 with only 2.5 seconds left in the third quarter as Mike Messenger rumbled down the floor and whipped a shot past Rochester goalie Angus Goodleaf for his second of the game.
Rochester, which won both regular-season games against Saskatchewan last season, picked up a pair of power-play goals early in the fourth quarter, but the Rush quelled any comeback bid when Robert Church rifled a long-range sidearm shot past the K-Hawks netminder.
“It was 60 minutes of what we were looking for,” said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan. “It’s been a work in progress and I’m proud of the way we’ve gotten better every week.
“We have the ability and talent to play a shut-down type game and that’s what this was. We played our system to a ‘T.’ We created some turnovers, scored a lot of goals in transition, the things we wanted.”
Rush goaltender Evan Kirk was particularly sharp during a back-and-forth first quarter then capped his night by turning aside Cody Jamieson on a partial breakaway. Kirk finished the night with 37 saves.
Matthews and Church, who each racked up seven points on the night, along with Ryan Keenan all had power-play goals for the Rush during the opening half.
Rochester came into the game as the lowest-scoring team in the NLL and needed four power-play goals just to keep it close. Joe Resetarits, Kyle Jackson, and Jamieson each scored twice with Cory Vitarelli adding a single. Goodleaf, who was briefly pulled in the second quarter, totaled 40 saves.
Saskatchewan renews acquaintances with 2017 NLL championship series rivals the Georgia Swarm down south next Sunday. Rochester returns home next Saturday to meet the Buffalo Bandits.