NLL: Rush earn 16-12 win over Seals in home opener

Saskatchewan Rush vs Calgary Roughnecks. (Photo courtesy of the National Lacrosse League)

After raising their 2018 NLL championship banner, the Saskatchewan Rush won every quarter against the expansion San Diego Seals to take a 16-12 win at home.

The victory puts the defending champs at 1-1 on the season, while the Seals drop to 1-2.

Prior to the game, there was a banner raising to celebrate the Rush’s 2018 championship, their third in the last four years. Additionally, the four members of the Seals who played for Saskatchewan last season were given their championship rings and the crowd gave them a warm round of applause for their service last year.

After that, it was all business.

The Seals drew first blood. Garrett Billings, who was just added to the Seals roster, sniped his first goal since the 2017 season. But just 15 seconds later, Ben McIntosh would even the score with his first of five goals on the night.

McIntosh scored his second of the game only 25 seconds after that, giving Saskatchewan its first lead, and a furious quarter of back-and-forth scoring was well underway. When the dust settled, the Rush had a 6-5 lead, with three of San Diego’s goals coming on the powerplay.

Things settled down a little in the second quarter, with only seven goals exchanged. Former Rush players Adrian Sorichetti and Dan Dawson both scored for the Seals, with Billings getting his second of the game. But again the Rush picked up the one-goal margin of victory in the quarter, scoring four times to San Diego’s three, with Mark Matthews notching two in the frame.

Going into the third quarter with a two-goal lead, the Rush appeared to be taking over the game. They notched the first three goals of the third, one short-handed from Jeff Shattler and two on the powerplay (one each from Shattler and McIntosh). But the Seals got two back late in the quarter to narrow the lead once again. For a third straight quarter, the Rush scored one goal more than the Seals.

In the fourth it was more of the same, with the striking first, the Seals responding, but ultimately, the Rush showing themselves to be just a little stronger. Saskatchewan was able to extend the lead to 16-11 by the mid-point of the quarter, with the rookie Austin Staats of the Seals sniping a goal in the last minute to close the gap slightly.

The Rush had a one-goal advantage in every quarter, in spite of some penalty trouble and San Diego’s ability to capitalize on those opportunities (the Seals went 5-for-6 on the powerplay). Jeremy Thompson was the unsung hero for the Rush, winning 21 of 29 faceoffs on the night and taking away any momentum the Seals might have been building.

Evan Kirk stopped 37 shots in the win. Although Frankie Scigliano gave up 16 goals, he also made 47 saves giving him a pretty good night overall against a potent Rush offence.

McIntosh led all scorers with nine points on the night (five goals, four assists), while Matthew Dinsdale (1 G, 5 A) had a six-point night for Saskatchewan. The Seals were led by Billings (2 G, 6 A) and Staats (4 G, 2 A), both with six points.

The Rush travel to Vancouver next weekend to take on the Warriors (1-3) while the Seals host their very first home game, facing the Rochester Knighthawks (1-1).