Despite a long travel day following a game less than 24 hours earlier, the Saskatchewan Rush held off a surge from the Vancouver Stealth to pocket an 11-9 win on Saturday night in Saskatoon.
The Rush (7-1), who took home a 13-10 from the road victory over the Colorado Mammoth on Friday, scored goals as the clock struck zero time remaining in both the second and third quarters, and used those goals to take the steam out of a four-goal effort from Vancouver’s Logan Schuss.
“It was a character win for us,” said Rush goalie Tyler Carlson, who made the surprise start – and his first since the opening night of last season – in place of Evan Kirk.
“We had to battle through the travel. It was a late night for everybody and not easy travel, but we were ready. And when you’re the backup goalie you have to be ready for any situation and I made sure I was ready to go.”
Carlson stopped the first 10 shots he faced and finished with 39 saves before a crowd of 14,387 at SaskTel Centre.
Saskatchewan jumped out quickly and had a 4-0 lead by the early moments of the second quarter. Mike Messenger and Ben McIntosh each notched diving-shot goals in the first and Mark Matthews padded the lead with a pair of goals. His first was a rocket from outside that went off the crossbar and behind Stealth goalie Eric Penney, and his second came after Ryan Keenan took two defenders to the corner before flipping a pass to Matthews, who tucked a shot between the goalie’s feet.
The Rush picked up another surge later in the second quarter with three straight power-play goals. Keenan made it 5-1 driving to the net after a flip pass from Matthews sprung him loose, and after goals by the Stealth’s Schuss and Joel McCready, McIntosh made it 6-3 on the man-advantage as he faked once and then unleashed a sidearm shot that whizzed by Penney. The Rush made it 7-3 just as the first half expired on a goal by Robert Church.
The third quarter, though, belonged to the visitors who weren’t about to let a deficit take them out of the game. Vancouver (1-7) began to claw back into it, eventually getting the score to 8-7 as Brandon Goodwin and Tony Malcolm scored 12 seconds apart. Keenan and Schuss exchanged goals for their respective teams, and then Schuss ripped in his fourth of the night on a Stealth power play to tie the game 9-9 with 27 seconds left in third. But that lasted until just one second remained in the period as Curtis Knight was in the right spot just off the crease, latching onto a loose ball that got away from Penney and slipping it in.
After a Keenan goal was reversed upon review, the Rush finally did restore a two-goal lead with what ended up being the lone goal of the fourth quarter. Knight found a hole in the Stealth defence, grabbed a pass in tight from Marty Dinsdale and his quick release found the net.
“There was only 15 minutes and I thought we emptied the tank,” said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan, whose team went directly to the arena after landing at home. “I thought we looked tired in the third, but we found our legs in the fourth. Carlson did, the defence did and they blocked a lot of shots. (Mike) Messenger and (Chris) Corbeil had a big effort working hard on a loose ball in the corner at the end. That’s the price you have to pay to get a win.”
Church led the Rush with seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) while Matthews notched six (2 goals, 4 assists). McCready had a pair for the Stealth with Rhys Duch adding a single. Penney also registered 39 saves on the night.
The two teams will face each other again next weekend as they clash meet up in Vancouver for the rematch next Saturday night.