Mark Matthews scored four goals with Ryan Keenan, Curtis Knight, Marty Dinsdale, and Robert Church all adding hat tricks as the Rush squashed the Georgia Swarm 24-9 in a Champion’s Cup rematch from last spring. Georgia ended Saskatchewan two-year reign atop the National Lacrosse League with a 2-0 series sweep in the 2017 league championship.
The Rush exploded right out of the gates, notching seven goals in the opening quarter and never looking back. Back-to-back tallies from Jeff Cornwall staked Saskatchewan to a 4-1 lead and Knight struck for two in a row before the first period wrapped. That comfortable lead was all the Rush needed.
“We’ve had some good training camps the last couple of weeks,” said Church. “It kind of feels like we were in mid-season form and we had some chemistry out there.”
Church’s first of the night came on a second-quarter power play and gave the Rush a 10-3 cushion. He added his second moments later just before Knight took a feed from Dan Taylor and counted his hat-trick marker.
Matthews, who hit for 100 points for the third straight season in 2017, connected for a power-play marker to launch the Rush’s attack in the third quarter. Saskatchewan’s star forward collected his hat-trick tally midway through the third to put the Rush ahead 17-7. Before the third quarter closed, Jeff Shattler, a key off-season acquisition as a free-agent pickup from Calgary, hit the scoresheet to make it 20-7.
The fourth quarter opened with Matthews notching his fourth of the night as the Rush continued the onslaught with a four-gun run. Adding to the Rush scoring barrage were 2017 second-round draft pick Chris Bouchy with a pair of goals along with singles for Ryan Dilks, Mike Messenger, and Taylor.
Evan Kirk, the Rush’s new number-one netminder after coming to the club in an off-season trade, started the night but gave way late in the first quarter. Saskatchewan dressed five goaltenders and each one spent time between the pipes in a battle for the backup spot behind Kirk. Two of hopefuls, Zack Boychuk and Peter Dubenski, combined to surrender only three goals, and actually changed on the fly in the fourth quarter.
“I think we accomplished what we wanted to,” said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan. “All the young guys were really good. I thought Nick Finlay was good again. Two weeks in a row, he’s impressed me. Johnny Pearson was good. Bouchy struggled a bit last week but tonight he played very well.
“We’ve got a month to prepare for Toronto and hopefully we’ll be ready.”
The Rush will continue their training camp before getting the 2018 regular season under way on December 16th as they travel to Toronto to face the Rock. They return to Saskatchewan for their home-opener on December 23rd against the New England Black Wolves.