The Saskatchewan Rush are one huge step closer to repeating as NLL champions with last night’s 11-9 win over the Buffalo Bandits.
The win puts Saskatchewan in the driver’s seat in the best-of-three series as the two teams head west to Saskatoon for Game 2.
In spite of a combined 26 shots on goal in the first quarter, both goalies frustrated the opposition offenses with rock solid performances. Aaron Bold of the Rush was peppered by 14 shots but turned them all aside. The Rush managed to solve Bandits goalie Anthony Cosmo at the 7:51 mark when Mark Matthews was able to sneak one past him; Adrian Sorichetti would add one more goal late in the first to give the Rush a two-goal cushion going into the second frame.
Things opened up in the second quarter. After Matthews scored his second of the night on the power play, Buffalo finally beat Bold getting two goals back just a minute apart. The Bandits would outscore the Rush 4-3 over the rest of the quarter to knot the score at 6-6 heading into halftime.
Dhane Smith drew first blood to open the second half with his second goal of the night, giving the Bandits their first lead of the game. Saskatchewan tied the game up again four minutes later, then Smith snapped home his hat trick goal at the 12:12 mark to retake the lead for Buffalo. Rush forward Ben McIntosh was able to capitalize on a power play opportunity less than a minute later to tie the game again, taking the teams to the fourth quarter deadlocked at 8-8.
Ryan Benesch scored an unassisted marker early in the fourth quarter to once again give the Bandits the lead, but after that, the Rush took over the game. Church tied the game once again, just 54 seconds later and goals by McIntosh and Zack Greer with less than five minutes left to play put the game out of reach.
Regular season scoring champion Smith led all shooter with six points (three goals, three assists) while Church paced the Rush with five points (2 G, 3 A).
Cosmo made 41 saves in the loss, while Bold made 43 saves for the victory.
With Game 1 now in the books, the Rush are positioned to win their second straight Champion’s Cup and do it at home for the second straight year, this time before what will likely be a sellout crowd at SaskTel Centre. Game 2 is scheduled for a 9:00 p.m. ET start on Saturday, June 4.