NLL: Seals down struggling Rush 12-11

The Saskatchewan Rush host the San Diego Seals at Sask Tel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, January 14, 2022. (Photo credit: Brent Just/NLL)

Austin Staats scored a hat trick, along with three assists to help power the San Diego Seals to a 12-11 win over the Saskatchewan Rush on Friday night. The win improves the Seals to 4-1 on the season and has them in sole possession of first place in the West Division. The Rush drop to 1-4 and sit in fifth place in the West.

Saskatchewan opened the scoring less than a minute into the game, when Robert Church sniped a quick-stick power play marker off a feed from Jeff Shattler. Staats notched his first goal of the game less than 30 seconds later to even the score. Wes Berg added to the Seals lead at the 2:42 mark, but after the flurry of early goals, both teams were shut down for the remainder of the quarter.

The Rush again opened the scoring in the first minute of the second quarter, this time with Mark Matthews beating Seals rookie netminder Justin Geddie to knot the score at 2-2. Berg responded at the 3:49 mark with a short-handed goal. Mac O’Keefe added another shortie 10 minutes later to put San Diego up two goals going into the halftime break.

The Rush once again picked up the first goal of the quarter to start the third, with Ryan Keenan earning his lone goal of the game. This began a frenzied offensive attack from both sides for the rest of the quarter, with the teams trading goals back and forth and the Rush gaining ground. In fact, Matt Beers scored his first goal of the season at 11:31 of the period to put Saskatchewan into the lead for the first time since the opening minute of the game. The lead was short-lived, however, as O’Keefe tied the game again a minute and 15 seconds later.

When all was said and done, 11 goals were exchanged in the third quarter, with the Rush still trailing by one going into the final frame.

Dane Dobbie added to the Seals lead 24 seconds into the fourth quarter, picking up his lead-leading 18th goal of the season, but Saskatchewan came right back again and scored two quick goals in the next three minutes to knot the score at 10-10. After another six-minute stretch without any offence from either side, the Seals finally broke the deadlock when Jeremy Noble beat Rush goalie Adam Shute at the 10:00 mark. Staats added his hat-trick goal two-and-a-half minutes later, building up a lead the Rush were not able to respond to.

Noble and Staats finished the game with six points each, while Geddie earned his first NLL win, turning aside 42 shots. Matthews paced the Rush offence with two goals and four assists, while Robert Church also scored a hat trick.

With their fourth loss of the campaign, the Rush are in the unusual position of sitting near the very bottom of the NLL standings—they have won the West Division every single year that they’ve called Saskatoon home. Rapidly approaching the mid-point of the season, they need to get white hot and go on a run if they hope to even make it to the postseason.

Meanwhile, the Seals are showing themselves to be a team to be reckoned with. Even with top goaltender Frankie Scigliano out of commission for COVID-19 protocols for the last two contests, the team has extended their winning streak to four games and off-season acquisition Dane Dobbie is leading the league in goals (18) and points (28), making a case for adding a second-straight MVP award to his trophy case.

Both the Seals and Rush get a bye next week, returning to action on Jan. 29. That night the Rush host Panther City Lacrosse Club while the Seals are at home to face Scigliano’s and Dobbie’s former club, the Calgary Roughnecks.