A standout goaltending effort and a balanced offensive attack did the trick for the Saskatchewan Rush as they dropped the Colorado Mammoth 9-7 on Saturday night in Denver.
The win boosted the Rush (8-6) to within a half-game of West Division-leading San Diego, while also earning them a sixth consecutive regular-season victory over the Mammoth (6-9). The Rush will head to San Diego next Friday for a first-place showdown with the Seals.
“This was a big one for us,” said Rush forward Mark Matthews, who scored twice and added a pair of assists.
“San Diego losing a couple this weekend helps us. We want first place and get home-floor advantage the whole way in the playoffs and this is a start. All week we talked about going hard and playing hard and we did that tonight.”
Jeff Shattler opened the scoring for the Rush, netting the only goal of the first quarter and picking up the 800th point of his illustrious NLL career. The opening frame saw Rush goalie Adam Shute come up with 11 saves, including three key stops on a late Colorado power play.
The Rush built a 3-0 lead early in the second when Ryan Keenan and Robert Church scored 33 seconds apart. Keenan was the trailer in transition and was left wide open to laser a shot top corner. Church followed by cutting off the wing into the slot and putting a sidearm shot behind Mammoth goalie Dillon Ward. After Colorado finally got on the board, Ben McIntosh restored the Rush’s three-goal cushion with 57 seconds left in the first half when he gunned a shot over Ward’s shoulder.
The two teams exchanged two goals apiece in the third with both Rush goals coming from Matthews. He made it 5-1 for Saskatchewan when he snared his own rebound off the end boards, rumbled towards the net, and put a diving shot in short side. After the Mammoth cut the lead with a pair of goals, Matthews was back again and made the score 6-3 when he used a screen to fire home a shot with 1:25 left in the quarter.
Both teams found some offensive traction in the fourth, but the Rush were able to withstand two comeback bids by the Mammoth. Scott Campbell notched his first wearing Rush colours with a slick individual effort, outwaiting Ward with some craft stickhandling in tight. Church pocketed his second of the night to put the Rush up 8-5 and Keenan picked up his second less than two minutes later as threw a brilliant swim move on the Mammoth defender and then slipped a low shot inside the far post.
Shute earned his third win of the season as he kept the Mammoth at bay in the second half. He finished with 25 saves, three of which came on Colorado breakaways. The Rush netminder turned aside Dan Coates on a shorthanded chance and then denied Mammoth speedster Joey Cupido as he twice went in all alone.
The Rush are back in action next weekend when they play their lone doubleheader of the season. After playing in San Diego next Friday, the Rush are back home at the SaskTel Centre for the first-ever visit of the expansion Philadelphia Wings.