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Stories/Op-Ed

Shifting to Saskatchewan, the NLL Cup Finals will take three games to decide

After a convincing 13-8 win at the Blue Cross Arena over the Saskatchewan Rush, the Rochester Knighthawks forced a third and decisive game in the NLL Cup Championship series. The Knighthawks continued their perfection on their home floor in the NLL Finals, improving to 4-0 all-time with the win. If they, however, want to raise the Cup next Saturday, they’ll have to do so on the road.

 

Both teams realize the scope of what it means to be playing back at SaskTel Centre. For the Rush, it’s the comfort of playing at home, while for the Knighthawks it means traveling into one of the most hostile environments in the NLL.

”It’ll be good to be back home. We’ll be able to get back into our routine,” said Rush captain Chris Corbeil. “Being on the road changes things up. Our shootaround wasn’t at the arena today. We don’t make excuses, Rochester was in the same boat. We’ll be more comfortable at home next week.”

Rochester goaltender Matt Vinc was in stellar form in game two, stopping 47 of 55 shots faced. He doesn’t plan to change much going into game three in Saskatoon.

 

“I’m a creature of habit. I’m going to do exactly what I do before every game and before every practice,” said Vinc. “We have to approach things like we have all year. I have to go out there and try to make the first save. We have to try to win the first faceoff, scoop the first loose ball and score the first goal.”

While the Knighthawks will do their best to approach the game the same way, there are undeniable factors at the Sasktel Centre, not the least of which is the crowd noise.

”It’s really loud [in that arena,] on the defensive end it’s really tough to communicate,” noted Vinc. “It’s hard to prepare for, but fortunately we’ve been there twice so we have a little experience with it.”

 

The Rush believe both games were closer than the scoreline indicated. Despite winning by seven goals in game one, Saskatchewan head coach Derek Keenan said he felt his team wasn’t much better than Rochester and had a lot to work on. After losing by five goals in game two, Corbeil felt the game would’ve been closer if not for Vinc playing as well as he did.

 

In game two, transition ended up being a key factor. The Knighthawks scored four goals in transition while the Rush scored zero.  Coach Keenan wasn’t happy about the gap in that stat.

 

“I thought we were sloppy and didn’t execute in transition,” said Keenan. “I’d be fine if we go 0-0 in transition goals, but we can’t give up four.”

 

The Rush are 9-2 on their home floor this year in the regular season and playoffs. The Knighthawks are 6-5 on the road.

 

The three game series has been trimmed to a one game series and both teams are excited for the chance to compete for the Cup.

“We know we have one game to win,” said Corbeil. “I told the guys in the room that if we were given this chance at the beginning of the year, we would’ve taken it.”

 

“There are seven other teams in this league that would kill to be in this spot,” noted Vinc.

”We worked our [tails] off all year to be in first place overall,” said Keenan. “We get to play on our home floor and we’re excited to get back there.”

Game three will faceoff at 9:30p.m. EST from the Sasktel Centre in Saskatoon. The game will be available on Twitter and NLLTV and its affiliates.

NLL