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Three Stars: Nll Champion’S Cup Finals – Game 2

For many of the Edmonton Rush and Toronto Rock players, outside from seasoned veterans arguably, the decisive game of the NLL Champion’s Cup Finals was the biggest tilt of their careers. Which pros rose to the occasion in the hard-fought 11-10 win by the Rush to raise the team’s first Cup? Read the Three Stars of Game 2 below via Stephen Stamp from IL Indoor as the league completed its 29th season in thrilling fashion.

“Game 2 of the Champion’s Cup Finals was certainly a different beast than Game 1, but the end result was another Edmonton Rush win that led to the raising of the trophy in Edmonton,” Stamp writes. “Shortly after the Cup was hoisted by captain Chris Corbeil, the MVP trophy was presented to Mark Matthews. Was there really any question? Matthews had 5 goals and 3 assists Friday, raising his game when it mattered most. It was the capper to a remarkable year for Matthews. Now one more honour to wrap things up: he’s the First Star in IL Indoor’s final NLL 3 Stars of the 2015 season.”

First Star
Mark Matthews, Edmonton Rush
5 goals, 3 assists
Matthews came into the league with plenty of expectations to become a star player and the offensive leader of the Rush. Over his first two years with the team he built gradually towards that status, then this season took a giant leap to being recognized as one of the very best players in the game. It wouldn’t have meant as much, though, if the Rush hadn’t fulfilled their potential and won the team’s first Champions Cup. They have Matthews to thank in large part for doing so. He’s a great outside shooter, but his goal of the game had to be the shorthanded marker he scored when he jumped up and extended to his full reach to drop a dip and dunk goal for Edmonton’s tenth on a perfect feed from John Lintz. They still needed Marty Dinsdale’s late goal to take the win, but Matthews was the key to putting them in position to take the title.

Second Star
Rob Hellyer, Toronto Rock
2 goals, 4 assists
Hellyer led Toronto in playoff scoring and was second overall to Matthews with 7 goals and 16 assists for 23 points. He hardly skipped a beat when he returned from an injury that caused him to miss four games down the stretch of the regular season. His shorthanded marker onDamon Edwards’ boarding major in the fourth quarter gave Toronto the lead and a spark when it looked like Edmonton had a golden opportunity to take control. He’s established himself as a bona fide star and a centrepiece of the Rock going forward.

Third Star
Kyle Rubisch, Edmonton Rush
3 loose balls, 4 caused turnovers
There were several other options for the third star but you really have to honour the Rush defence for the work they did in the finals and all year long, and Rubisch was the cornerstone of a defence that got contributions from up and down the roster. His four caused turnovers was one more than the entire Toronto team was credited with. Not only does Rubisch play a smart and aggressive game, he does it while hardly taking any penalties. His total of penalty minutes in five playoff games? Zero. The state of the art in defensive players, Rubisch is still only 26. He should be leading Edmonton to championships for years to come.

Honourable Mentions
Robert Church (Edmonton): 2g, 3a. Church is so fluid handling the ball. He can shoot and pass with equal aplomb and always seems to know the right time to do each…Colin Doyle (Toronto): 2g, 2a. Vintage Doyle in Game 2; he had more spark than we’ve seen in a while and was central to almost everything Toronto created in the offensive zone…Aaron Bold (Edmonton): 32/42, .762 save percentage. Not the best numbers, but Bold made the big saves exactly when the Rush really needed them, including a pair of huge clutch stops on Crowley and Doyle in the dying minutes.

By Stephen Stamp for Inside Lacrosse via IL Indoor. Photo by Dale MacMillan.