Up by one with ten seconds to go, the Saskatchewan Rush took the ball looking to wrap up a home win and force a deciding game three in the NLL finals.
And then it happened.
Georgia pulled their goalie looking to pressure the Rush and force a turnover, Saskatchewan pulled their goalie to prevent a two-on-one scenario for the Swarm. That plan backfired as Chris Corbeil was unable to corral Jeremy Thompson’s pass, Georgia scooped it up and with 2.4 seconds on the clock, it was all tied up.
Miles Thompson would go on to score the overtime winner as the Swarm won the Champion’s Cup in front of 14,000 plus rabid Rush fans in Saskatoon.
Saskatchewan head coach Derek Keenan had no regrets about the call to pull goalie Aaron Bold despite having possession and leading by one.
“It’s something we practise and always do,” Keenan said. “We normally execute that easily but we made a mistake.”
— NLL (@NLL) June 11, 2017
While the move seems odd for many not as familiar with the workings and strategy of lacrosse, those closer to the game saw it as routine. Simply the worst case scenario happened for Saskatchewan.
“I would have done the same thing,” said Georgia head coach Ed Comeau.
One play can end up being the takeaway, but it was not the full story. The battle between the top two teams in the NLL brought out the best in both sides. Two of the best snipers in the game traded shots as Adam Jones netted a hat-trick while eventual game MVP and regular season top scorer Lyle Thompson potted three of his own with four assists.
Aaron Bold and Mike Poulin duked it out in goal, with the latter making 48 saves to keep the score close and finish the playoffs without a loss.
Saskatchewan faced their first of several mental test early on when the Swarm jumped out to a 3-0 lead on just four shots.
“We had been battling all year like that when we’re down and we had a lot of chances to take some big leads,” said forward Robert Church, who led the Rush with four goals.
The early deficit looked to be a thing of the past by the fourth quarter, which the Rush opened with four straight goals. Only saves by Poulin preventing more while his team tried to regroup.
“If that doesn’t sell the game I don’t know what will,” Keenan said. “The skill out there was ridiculous and they were tough and worthy of the victory.”
The loss ends a run of back to back titles for the Saskatchewan Rush, who will play their first ever game in Saskatoon without the defending champions title in 2018.
“We’re still young and our core group will stay together and we have a great group of players so I think we still have a bright future.”