The two-time defending champion Saskatchewan Rush are 0-2 to start the 2017 NLL season after a 13-11 defeat by the Toronto Rock at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
Down 8-2 at halftime, the Rush turned on the jets in the third quarter and outscored the Rock 6-3, closing the gap to 11-8. Robert Church had a hat-trick of power play goals as the Rush took advantage of a breakdown of discipline on the Rock bench. Saskatchewan was 4/6 on the power play.
Third overall pick in 2016 Mike Messenger scored his first NLL goal, a beauty play that saw him soar over the Rock’s crease to tuck the ball past Nick Rose.
The fourth quarter started quietly with neither team giving an inch defensively. Matthew Dinsdale kept the dream alive for the Rush scoring at 7:14, somersaulting as he beat Rose.
“I came off the bench, rubbed off my guy, cut the middle and [Matthews] found me and I pumped one and put it in far side,” Dinsdale described.
The Rush pulled within a goal at 11-10 on Mark Matthews’ second of the game but Kieran McArdle replied for the Rock just eight seconds later. Reid Reinholdt added an insurance marker for the Rock, making Ryan Keenan’s last-minute goal irrelevant.
The Rush fell into 5-0 deficit in the first quarter. They didn’t score until captain Chris Corbeil broke the shutout at 2:57 of the second. The Rush also lost defender Ryan Dilks in the second quarter to an instigating penalty after McArdle interfered with goaltender Aaron Bold and the two fought behind the net.
0-2 isn’t a position any of them foresaw, but Dinsdale said it’s not a problem.
“It’s not what we want to start the season but in that room is a bunch of championship guys who were in this position two years ago. We were 0-2 and we came back and won a championship,” he said. “We know what it takes to get back on track and we just need to come back next week and be prepared.”
The Rush open their home schedule next Saturday against the 1-1 Rochester Knighthawks at SaskTel Centre.