The New England Black Wolves rallied late in the fourth quarter and then scored on the power play in overtime to hand the Saskatchewan Rush their first home-turf loss of the season with a 13-12 verdict on Saturday night in Saskatoon.
Trailing 12-9 after the Rush’s Mark Matthews struck on the power-play, the Wolves launched their comeback with back-to-back goals from Chad Culp just 56 seconds apart. New England then forced overtime as they tied the game with eight seconds left in regulation when Kyle Buchanan found the net for his fourth goal of the night. It was the Wolves’ third goal in the final 1:24 of the fourth quarter.
The Rush had a great chance to win in overtime, but Ryan Dilks was denied on a shorthanded breakaway. With their second power play of OT winding down, Shawn Evans whipped a shot past Rush goalie Aaron Bold at the 3:17 mark of the extra frame.
“One thing we told the team was that they were playing a championship-caliber team so they weren’t going to get away with any shortcuts,” said Black Wolves head coach Glenn Clark.
“When it was 12-9, it would have been an easy bailout for us and for the guys to take shortcuts but we didn’t. We got some huge goals 6-on-5. Three straight to close the game was unusual but we’ll take it. All in all, a huge win for where we are in the standings and what we needed to get out of this game. It’s obviously a massive win.”
Saskatchewan’s loss, combined with Colorado’s win over Rochester, prevented the Rush (10-5) from securing first place in the NLL’s West Division. The victory lifted New England’s playoff hopes as the Wolves (8-8) moved closer to second-place Toronto and gave them some breathing room ahead of Buffalo and Rochester.
“I don’t know if we let up but we threw it away,” said Rush forward Curtis Knight, who had three goals and two assists on the night.
“It was a good lesson to learn now rather than in the playoffs.”
The loss was the Rush’s first of the season when leading at halftime and also prevented head coach Derek Keenan from setting a new NLL record for all-time coaching wins as he remains tied at 121 with Darris Kilgour.
“I thought we controlled play for the most and let it slip away,” said Keenan. “I think we got caught up in the moment a bit and made some poor decisions that ended up in the back of the net.”
The Rush stormed out to a 4-0 lead in the first quarter, two of the goals coming from Robert Church including his league-leading 19th power-play goal as he was left all alone in the slot and fired a short past Wolves goalie Evan Kirk.
Saskatchewan took a 6-4 lead into halftime and managed to hold off the surging Black Wolves during a third quarter that featured a handful of highlight-reel goals. Matt Hossack gave Saskatchewan a 7-4 lead as he picked off a pass in his own end, scooted down the floor on the breakaway and fended off the hold of a New England defender before tucking a backhand shot past Kirk.
The Wolves responded with two quick goals including Evans’ first of the night as he fought off a check and whipped a backhand shot inside the far post to make it 7-6. Saskatchewan answered with two in a row as first overall pick Ryan Keenan fired a low shot in, and fellow first-rounder Mike Messenger made it 9-6 as he forced a turnover deep in the Rush zone, rumbled up the floor, looked off a pass, and found the top corner with his shot. Another spectacular goal came from New England’s Kyle Buchanan caught a pass in the slot and his backhand shot slipped inside the far post.
Curtis Knight’s hat trick goal gave the Rush an 11-8 lead early in the fourth and the Rush caught a break when a goal by Kevin Crowley was called back on video review for a crease violation. Crowley got the goal back moments later as the Wolves put an extra attacker on the floor during a delayed penalty.
Mark Matthews, with two, Jeremy Thompson and Ben McIntosh also scored for the Rush, while Bold collected 35 saves.
Zac Reid and Sheldon Burns had the other goals for the Black Wolves, who got a six-assist effort from Reilly O’Connor. Kirk finished with 44 saves in the New England net.
The Rush are back on their home turf next Saturday when they take on the Toronto Rock. Meanwhile, the Black Wolves face a huge divisional matchup when they visit the Rochester.