“I guess it’s kind of cool.”
“I could care less.”
Those aren’t typical responses for an athlete that breaks records and wins a scoring race, but for Saskatchewan Rush forward Mark Matthews, those lines will do just fine.
Matthews established the National Lacrosse League single-season assist record Saturday at Sasktel Centre, picking up six assists to stand alone with 84 in the history books.
“It comes second when you’re this close to the playoffs and another championship is on your mind,” he said of his newly minted record.
That wasn’t the only accomplishment for Matthews on Saturday.
His seven-point night managed to win him the scoring race with 116 points on the season.
“I’d be lying if I said it’s not cool to lead the league in scoring but it only happens because of some of the guys on our team, so you’ll have to thank them,” he said after one of the biggest games of his career.
Reflecting on Matthew’s remarkable season, Rush Head Coach Derek Keenan knows where his player’s focus remains.
“Mark’s never about the goals, points, or the assists — he’s about the wins,” Keenan said.
On the record-breaking night, the Rush grinded out an 11-10 win in the regular season finale against the Calgary Roughnecks.
The game resembled two teams fighting for their playoff lives, not teams that had playoff positioning clinched.
“I thought it was a really good test for us tonight,” Keenan said. “That’s the kind of game we needed with another bye next week.”
“Going into the playoffs next week, that was a playoff-style game.”
The game was hotly contested from the opening ball-drop.
Down 5-4 to the Roughnecks in the dying moments of the first half, it was Ryan Keenan ripping a shot from the top of the offensive zone, to even the game with eight tenths of a second left on the clock.
As Matthews racked up the assists, the Rush began to pull away while uncharacteristically taking seven penalties along the way.
It was 9-6 at the beginning of the fourth quarter before an overshadowed Ben McIntosh put away his fourth goal of the night — part of an eight shot, six point effort.
With just over six minutes remaining in the game, it was Dan Dawson collecting a pass from Matthews and making use of space along the board to fire home a shot and send his teammate to the record books.
Two late Calgary goals made the game interesting late, but they couldn’t overcome a deficit for the third time this season against the Rush and sent the 14,671-person crowd at Sasktel Centre home happy once again.
Saskatchewan is now set to host the Western Division Final on May 10 at Sasktel Centre.
The win gave the Rush a perfect 10-0 record against western division opponents.
Saskatchewan had to endure six bye weeks and two back-to-backs to finish 14-4.