NLL: Rush dynasty intact with third title in four years

The Saskatchewan Rush won the 2018 NLL Cup. (Photo courtesy of the NLL)

Saskatchewan Rush champions again, third title in four years. Jeff Shattler named Most Valuable Player.

Saturday night the Saskatchewan Rush claimed their third championship in the last four years as they defeated the Rochester Knighthawks 15-10 in front of 13,645 fans at Sasktel Centre.

Jeff Shattler was named Most Valuable Player with another four goal performance in game three. Shattler finished the playoffs with eight goals and seven assists.

“I’ve been waiting for this feeling for a while,” said Shattler. “We worked hard all season and we deserve it. We played well in front of this great crowd. I love playing in front of this crowd – the best fans in the league.”

Saskatchewan went 14-4 during the regular season and came into the 2018 season on a mission. Last season the Rush lost a heart breaking game two in overtime to the Georgia Swarm that gave them the title.

It took over 14 minutes before the game’s first goal was scored. Both defenses played spectacularly. Neither team allowed a lot of second chances, intercepted passes, and both Matt Vinc and Evan Kirk stood tall. Josh Currier, who scored four times for the Knighthawks, scored the lone goal of the first quarter, but that’s when the Rush came to life.

Jeff Shattler started the Rush’s four-goal run 25 seconds into the second. They doubled up the Knighthawks in the period, leading 6-4 at the half.

Austin Shanks (1G/5A), in on Rochester’s first four goals, was a big reason his team stayed close in the first half.

“We thought we had a lot of momentum going our way,” said Shanks. “But we got in a little penalty trouble, and they took advantage of that and ran with it.” Shanks scored shorthanded in the second but the Knighthawks had to work extra hard to kill off the penalty.

The Knighthawks seemed to get a little momentum as the third quarter started, outscoring the Rush 3-1 in the first nine minutes, but Jeff Shattler started another four-goal run that continued into the fourth quarter for an 11-8 lead, a deficit Rochester would not overcome.

“It is an awful feeling right now, but I can’t say enough about their compete level and what they do for each other,” said Knighthawks’ head coach Mike Hasen. “This group is special… because we weren’t supposed to be here.”

Rochester would get within a goal as Eric Fannell and Josh Currier scored just 31 seconds apart early in the fourth, but that wouldn’t be enough. Curtis Knight, who was a healthy scratch in game two, started the final four-goal run with his second goal of the game. Ryan Keenan and Matthew Dinsdale then scored 42 seconds apart before captain Chris Corbeil hit the empty net to clinch the title.

“It wasn’t easy but that makes it sweeter,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan. “It was a grinder of a game, but I think we maybe had a little more gas in the tank. I really believe we earned this. We were focused from the first day of training camp on winning this championship. Mission accomplished.”

Rochester’s defense held Robert Church without a point in the final game. Church had nine points in the first two games.

This is the ninth championship for Keenan: three each as a player, head coach and assistant coach.

Josh Currier (4G), Cody Jamieson (3G/1A) and Austin Shanks (1G/5A) led the Knighthawks’ attack.

Jeff Shattler (4G/A), Chris Corbeil (3G), Ben McIntosh2G/4A) and Mark Matthews (8A) led the Rush.