NLL: Rush gamble; dynasty ends

The Saskatchewan Rush gambled on Saturday night and it cost them a championship. The Georgia Swarm ended the Rush’s Champion’s Cup dynasty with a 15-14 OT win to take the series two games to none. The Swarm won the championship for the first time in their history.

On what should have typically been the last possession of a game in which the Rush led 14-13, they pulled Aaron Bold to spread out the floor and kill the last 10 seconds of the game. But the Swarm pulled Mike Poulin, too, and their confidence in their extra-man game allowed them to intercept a pass. After a mad scramble to the net, Jeremy Thompson made a save – off his helmet – on his brother Lyle, but the rebound was scooped up and put in by Joel White.

Miles Thompson scored at 1:13 of overtime.

“We normally execute that with precision, and easily, and we just made a mistake,” Rush head coach Derek Keenan said during the post-game press conference. “We didn’t get the ball in an area we were supposed to.”

Some Rush fans might be scratching their head at the decision to pull Bold with a one-goal advantage with such little time left, but it’s a common play, one that Swarm head coach Ed Comeau defended.

“It’s the right play to do and we would have done the exact same thing,” Comeau said. “They had a bad bounce and we capitalized on it. We had a plan for [that scenario] and we executed it.

“It’s hard to be double-teamed,” he continued. “That’s the strategy behind it. It’s the right thing to do. There are lots of mistakes in the game and I don’t think that was the last mistake, but certainly they played their hearts out until the final buzzer.”

Georgia took a quick three goal 2:43 into the game, prompting the Rush to give Bold a two-minute rest in favour of Tyler Carlson. That settled the troops who roared back to within one. A pair of goals by Lyle Thompson put the Swarm up 5-3 after the first after Ben McIntosh missed on a penalty shot.

The Rush scored three and Randy Staats a pair in the second (his third and fourth of the game) for a 7-6 Georgia lead at the half.

“We battled all year like that. We never felt like we were out of it,” said Robert Church.

Georgia led 10-8 after the third but Saskatchewan scored four straight in the first 3:36 of the fourth to take a 12-10 lead. The Swarm countered with their own three-goal run, putting them up one. Jeremy Thompson tied the game at 13:26 and Adam Jones gave the Rush the go-ahead goal 22 seconds later.

“We played an unbelievable team with unbelievable fans,” Swarm goaltender Mike Poulin praised. “We plan on preparing to do it again and we expect them to want it back as well.”

Lyle Thompson, Shayne Jackson and Staats all finished with seven points for the Swarm. Poulin made 48 saves. Church, Ryan Keenan and Mark Matthews all had five points for the Rush, while Bold made 37 stops.

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