Everything the Saskatchewan Rush left on the floor in 2016, they continued in their 2017 return to Saskatoon.
A packed and deafening SaskTel Centre cheered on the two-time defending National Lacrosse League champions to a 16-8 victory over the Rochester Knighthawks.
Before the game came festivities for the 15,007 boisterous fans in attendance. The Rush raised their 2016 title banner, to the rafters of the same arena they won it in.
Standing ovations greeted each Rush player during introductions. Loud cheers were given to every goal and save in a video tribute. That continued into the banner’s journey to the top of SaskTel Centre.
As for the game, it didn’t take long for the Rush to give their fans more to cheer about. Matthew Dinsdale scored 1:50 into the contest, setting the stage for three unanswered Rush goals.
Post-game, the Rush felt the warm welcome from the fans became a catalyst for the quick start.
“We utilized that energy and momentum the crowd gives us,” said Rush captain Chris Corbeil. “Near the end I turned to our coach and said ‘this is so cool’ you just have to sit back and enjoy the crowd at some point.”
That momentum continued throughout the contest with the Rush never trailing. Some pretty passing lead by star forward Mark Matthews helped the Rush take a 9-2 lead into the half.
Matthews would go on to score four goals and eleven points to lead the Rush offence, one bolstered by a near perfect powerplay.
“The big thing is you have to work hard to draw penalties,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan.
The Rush were six for eight on the man advantage.
“Guys shot the ball well and we made some adjustments that have worked well.”
It was a game where everything that could go right for the Rush, did. The passes were connecting, shots were finding the holes, and goaltender Aaron Bold made several big saves on the way to 40 saves on 48 shots.
“Aaron was really good in the second half and that’s why he is one of the best goalies in the world,” said Keenan.
Twelve Rush players registered at least a point in the contest. Ben McIntosh and Robert Church joined leading scorer Mark Matthews with hat-tricks of their own. Rookie Ryan Keenan showed his new home why he is this year’s first overall pick with a goal to go with four assists.
“That was big for us we needed to turn a corner and we accomplished that with a big start and a big result.” said captain Chris Corbeil, who added a goal of his own.
After losses to Georgia and Toronto, the win moves the Rush record to a more respectable 1-2 in the early going.
They look to build on the first win of the season when they return home to Saskatoon on Friday, Jan. 27 when they host the Vancouver Stealth.