Rush A Win Away From Advancing To Champions Cup Final

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An explosive second-half performance, highlighted by six goals from Adam Jones, paced the Saskatchewan Rush to an 18-9 win over the Colorado Mammoth in Game 1 of the NLL West Division Final.

The two-time defending NLL champion Rush are now just one win away from reaching the Champion’s Cup Final for a third straight season, and they have that opportunity next Saturday on their home turf at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.

Saskatchewan outscored Colorado 13-4 in the second half, silencing the Mammoth fans at the Pepsi Center in Denver. The 13 goals in the second half, as well as the nine goals in the fourth quarter, were both playoff records for the Rush, eclipsing marks previously set in their 15-3 victory over Minnesota in the 2012 West Division Final.

Jones, playing in his first career West Final, finished with nine points as he put on an impressive, and at times emotionally charged, offensive display against his former club.

“Our defence was so strong in the second half and that just trickled the confidence toward the offensive end,” said Jones. “Anyone on our offence can get the hot stick and it happened to be me tonight. We got some key defensive stops early in the third. It was a good team win.”

The second half belonged to Jones, the former Colorado star who was acquired by Saskatchewan in an off-season trade. Jones notched his first of the night as he went airborne into the Mammoth crease and beat Dillon Ward to make the score 6-6 early in the third quarter. The two-time All-Pro put the Rush ahead 9-6 with a rocket on the power play before the Mammoth fought back with two straight goals.
But from that point on, it was all Rush.

Mark Matthews, who also racked up nine points, posted back-to-back goals early in the fourth to put Saskatchewan up 11-8. Matthews found an open lane out of the corner and while soaring through the crease, he tucked the ball inside the far post. Saskatchewan’s leading scorer and former Champion’s Cup MVP counted his second when he came off the bench, took a timely feed from Tor Reinholdt, and fired a shot behind Ward.

The Rush went up 12-8 as Ben McIntosh racked up his fourth of the game as he found his way behind the Colorado defence on a power play and put his shot away. Another Rush man-advantage afforded Jones his third as he was left open in slot and buried a feed from Matthews. Just 28 seconds later, Jones counted his fourth as he undressed Mammoth defender Nick Ossello with a brilliant set of moves and then went untouched to the net to put the Rush ahead 14-8.

After Mike Messenger added another for the Rush with a terrific individual effort muscling past a Colorado defenceman, Jones was back for more to put the game out of reach. Jones sent a laser from outside past Mammoth backup goalie Alex Buque and then registered the sock trick (six-goal game) with another hot shot from outside. Curtis Knight ended the offensive outburst with just over two minutes remaining.
“It was tight going into the fourth quarter and we got on a roll,” said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan. “This is a game of runs and we got on a big one. We got goals in a lot of different ways – transition, power play. I thought Mark’s goal at the start of the fourth was a big one. We made a little adjust to our shooting and it paid off.”

McIntosh and Robert Church combined for 15 points to add to the Rush’s offensive firepower. Two of McIntosh’s four goals came in the opening half as did a power-play tally from Church. The Rush also got first-half goals from Ryan Keenan, on a slick effort grabbing a rebound off the endboards, and Tor Reinholdt, who tallied on a breakaway after drawing into the lineup to fill in for Rush captain Chris Corbeil.

Aaron Bold mustered 31 saves in the Saskatchewan net.