For three quarters, the Vancouver Stealth had an answer for everything the Saskatchewan Rush did. The Rush would build a multi-goal lead, and the Stealth would claw back into it.
But when the fourth quarter rolled around, the Saskatchewan visitors had an extra gear which Vancouver had no answer for. The end result was a 24-16 Rush victory in National Lacrosse League action at the Langley Events Centre. The win improved Saskatchewan to 7-3 while Vancouver fell to 3-8.
The Rush led 7-6 after one quarter and 14-10 at the half. Vancouver had their strongest quarter of the game in the third, cutting the lead to 16-15. But Saskatchewan scored seven unanswered goals in a 7:19 span to put the game out of reach.
“I think it took us 45 minutes to finally decided to play defence, to be honest,” said Rush coach and general manager Derek Keenan.
“We weren’t very good. I thought (Vancouver) played hard and we were fortunate to have an answer most of the game.”
The Stealth were playing their first game under new head coach Jamie Batley, who took over from the fired Dan Perreault.
“We want to forgot the first seven minutes of that fourth quarter,” he said.
“Maybe we were going a little bit too hard and the guys got tired. We were making very tired mistakes (in the fourth quarter).”
“Up until that point, I thought we played great.”
The Rush scored goals in bunches to start three of the four quarters.
The game was barely two minutes old and they led 3-0 with Ben McIntosh, Curtis Knight and Jeremy Thompson staking the visitors to the lead.
Rhys Duch and Cliff Smith cut it to 3-2 and after Knight made it 4-2. Joel McCready pulled the home side even with goals 26 seconds apart.
Robert Church, with a pair, and Riley Loewen made it 7-4 but McCready capped off the quarter with goals 33 seconds apart to pull the Stealth within a goal at 7-6.
The Rush came storming out again in the second with Church, Nik Bilic and Zack Greer making it 10-6.
The teams traded goals of the rest of the period with Knight scoring twice and Greer and McIntosh getting one apiece for Saskatchewan while Duch scored twice and Jordan Durston and Corey Small had one apiece for the Stealth.
The third quarter was the lone quarter Vancouver dominated as they outscored the Rush 5-2 to make it 16-15.
Small and Greer traded goals to open things before Duch had two more and McCready and Justin Salt had the others to pull Vancouver even.
Greer would score short-handed to give Saskatchewan the lead for good.
The fourth quarter was all Rush as Matthews and McIntosh scored two goals apiece and Thomson, Knight and Adrian Sorichetti had the others.
Duch and Greer traded late goals to round out the high-scoring game.
Greer led the way with five goals and 11 points while Knight (5+2), Matthews (2+8) and McIntosh (4+2) also had big games.
The Stealth were led by Duch (6+5), McCready (5+3) and Small (2+6).
All four goaltenders saw action.
Tyler Carlson came into the Saskatchewan net after the 13th Vancouver goal and allowed three goals the rest of the way on 19 shots. Aaron Bold made 18 saves on 31 shots.
For the Stealth, Tyler Richards started and allowed 10 goals on 28 shots while Eric Penney made 25 saves on 39 shots.
Vancouver was missing two major offensive pieces in Garrett Billings and Logan Schuss.
Despite the loss, Batley said there are positives to build on.
“We battled back from four goals down and I was very proud of that,” he said, adding that you cannot make mistakes like they did against the defending champions and expect to get away with it.
“We have three good periods to look at and there are a lot of good things we did tonight.”
“We knew they were going to come out hard and then they responded and pushed back,” Keenan said.
“And from there, it was back and forth for most of the game until the fourth quarter. It was just one of those games where you knew it was going to be a high scoring affair.”
Despite the loss, McCready remains optimistic.
“This team, we are really close to everybody putting in a full 60,” he said. “We have a lot of talent in that room and everybody still believes.”
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Zack Greer
2) Rhys Duch
3) Curtis Knight
By Gary Ahuja for NLL.com. Photo by Garrett James.