Saskatchewan Rushes Into The Play-offs

The two-time defending Champion’s Cup winners have secured their spot in the 2017 NLL playoffs as the Saskatchewan Rush topped the Buffalo Bandits 17-14 on Saturday night.
In a rematch between the teams that clashed in last season’s NLL Final, the Rush racked up their highest first-half offensive output of the season and then quelled a comeback bid by the Bandits in the fourth quarter. The victory also pushed Saskatchewan (9-4) ahead of Colorado by 2½ games for top spot in the West Division.
Rush leading scorer Mark Matthews, playing with severe pink eye in both eyes, torched the Bandits for nine points (2 goals, 7 assists), while the Rush also got hat tricks from both Adam Jones and first overall pick Ryan Keenan. The Matthews-Jones-Keenan left-side trio combined for 19 points.
“It’s good to clinch and now we can start focusing on getting home-floor advantage,” said Jones. “It was a good team win and we took some steps in the right direction on the offensive end.”
The Bandits (5-8) jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the opening quarter, but the Rush responded with four straight goals in a span of 1:57 including a terrific individual effort by rookie Mike Messenger as he busted his way past a Buffalo defender and then outmaneuvered goalie Anthony Cosmo. Before the first quarter wrapped, Keenan’s first of the night gave the Rush a 5-3 lead and chased Cosmo to the bench in favor of backup Davide DiRuscio.
Saskatchewan kept their offence fired up in the second. Jones fired a shot through the legs of DiRuscio to make it 6-3, and Adrian Sorichetti followed 59 seconds later with a slick play as he faked a pass to a trailing teammate and instead cut towards the net and slipped a shot through. Mitch Jones’ high shot eluded Aaron Bold to get a goal back for Buffalo, but the Rush went right back to work when Jones whipped a long shot home to make it 8-4. The fast-break opportunities kept coming for the Rush and Sorichetti made it 10-5 when he finished off a feed from captain Chris Corbeil.
Buffalo got a late power-play tally from Ryan Benesch to cut the Rush lead to 10-6 at halftime, and the Bandits put away two quick goals early in the third. But once again, the Rush responded to a Bandits threat. Jones registered his hat-trick tally as he unleashed a rocket through a screen to make it 11-8. Matthews was the integral part of the next two goals which came 30 seconds apart. His long-range bullet hit the back of the net and he then took on the role playmaker setting up Curtis Knight for the quick-stick strike and his first of two second-half markers.
Trailing 13-9 after three, the Bandits cued up a comeback attempt, kicking off with Nick Weiss’ shorthanded tally on a breakaway and followed by Kedoh Hill who was able to take advantage of a miscue pass from Bold. Buffalo closed the gap to 14-13 when Weiss lunged from behind the net to score, but Saskatchewan’s final response was enough to kill the Bandits’ rally.
Matthews quick-sticked a feed from Church to make it 15-13 – a play set up by Jones outworking two Buffalo defencemen to a rebound in the slot. Only 36 seconds later, Keenan’s on-the-run shot trickled over the line after getting away from DiRuscio, and the Rush rookie collected his hat trick two minutes later as he stepped into open space and gunned a shot past the Buffalo netminder.

Ben McIntosh, with a pair, and Marty Dinsdale also scored for the Rush who got 39 saves from Bold.
The Rush begin a three-game home stand next Saturday when they take on division nemesis, the Vancouver Stealth.