December 17, 2017 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Saskatchewan Rush
Saskatchewan Rush vs. Toronto Rock
December 16th, 2017
Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON
Listen: 98 COOL
The two-time champion Saskatchewan Rush open the 2018 NLL season on the road as they travel to Toronto to face the six-time champion Rock.
The Rush, who ended the regular season with a 12-6 mark, advanced to their third straight Champion\'s Cup Final but the two-time defending champs saw their reign come to an end as they dropped the championship in two games to the Georgia Swarm. Meanwhile, the Rock rebounded from a dismal 2016 campaign to finish at 9-9 in 2017, but they were also eliminated in the playoffs by Georgia, falling in the East Final.
The Rush have won six of the last seven meetings with the Rock, including both games of the 2015 Champion\'s Cup. This will be the lone meeting of the season between the teams-the first time they will meet only one time in a season since the 2006 and 2007 campaigns.
Overall, Toronto has a 12-10 regular-season record against the Rush. Last season, the clubs split their two meetings, each winning on their home turf. The Rush visited Toronto for the second game of the 2017 season, and trailed 5-0 and 8-1 before launching a second-half comeback bid that ultimately fell short in a 13-11 verdict for the Rock. Robert Church, with three goals, and Mark Matthews, with a pair, led the Rush offence. Also scoring for Saskatchewan were Ryan Keenan and Mike Messenger (both with their first NLL goal), Marty Dinsdale, Curtis Knight, and Chris Corbeil. Following that loss, though, the Rush won their next six games and eventually exacted some revenge by beating Toronto 15-10 late last season in Saskatoon. The Rush outscored the Rock 5-0 in the third quarter and 8-3 overall in the second half. Mark Matthews (4 goals, 3 assists) and Robert Church (2 goals, 5 assists) each notched seven points in the game, with Ben McIntosh, Matt Hossack and Adam Jones all scoring twice. Dan Taylor, Ryan Keenan, and Curtis Knight each added a goal for the Rush.
The Rush prepared for the 2018 campaign with a pair of pre-season games. Saskatchewan lost 13-10 in Toronto against the Rock, and then stomped the Georgia Swarm 24-9 at SaskTel Center in mid-November. Toronto welcomes back Rob Hellyer this season after the team\'s leading scorer for 2016 missed all of last season due to a knee injury. The Rock do have a couple familiar faces to the Rush - former captain Brodie Merrill along with Adam Jones, who was traded this past off-season for two draft picks after one year in Saskatchewan. Toronto got their regular season under way last weekend, but fell 13-9 in Buffalo despite a five-point game from Jones.
Statistically Speaking: Saskatchewan\'s Mark Matthews finished second in league scoring last season as he 113 points left him just three behind Georgia\'s Lyle Thompson. Matthews had 73 assists to lead the league and break his own franchise record. Matthews also finished second behind Thompson in Three Star Award voting with Thompson earning 39 points (6 x First Star, 2 x Second Star and 3 x Third Star) and Matthews totaling 33 points (5 x First Star, 2 x Second Star, 2 x Third Star) ... The Rush\'s Robert Church cracked the NLL\'s top-20 scoring last season with 77 points, and for the second straight season, Church led the NLL in power-play goals. After scoring 17 on the man-advantage in 2016, Church notched 21 goals on the power play in last season. Mark Matthews helped the cause along with a league-high 29 power-play assists ... Saskatchewan finished 2017 with the fourth-best power play at 53.8% (49-for-91) while the Rush\'s penalty kill wound up ranked sixth at 46.3%. The Rush boasted the league\'s best power play at home at 65.1% (28-for-43) ... Toronto\'s power play ended last season ranked seventh at 45.6% with the penalty kill ranked last at just 42.5% ... The Rush and Rock surrendered a league-high 12 shorthanded goals in 2017. Both teams scored only three shorthanded markers of their own ... New Rush starting goaltender Evan Kirk led the NLL last season with 676 saves, while his Toronto counterpart Nick Rose led the NLL with a 10.82 goals-against average and in minutes played (1,019) ... Ryan Keenan, the Rush\'s first overall pick in the 2016 NLL Draft, finished third in rookie scoring with 42 points ... The Rush\'s Jeremy Thompson finished second in the league in both faceoff wins (225) and loose ball scoops (179) ... Rush defenceman Kyle Rubisch, who was the NLL\'s Defensive Player of the Year four years in a row, ended up tied for first in the league with 36 forced turnovers. Rubisch is the NLL\'s single-season record-holder and all-time leader in the category ... Toronto\'s Tom Schreiber led all rookie scorers and finished eighth in overall scoring 94 points. The Rock boasted two more of the league\'s top rookies with Kieran McArdle and Reid Reinholdt both hitting 36 points ... The Rock\'s Brett Hickey finished second behind Saskatchewan\'s Robert Church with 16 power-play goals ... Dan Lintner had a hat trick in Toronto\'s season-opening 13-9 loss in Buffalo. Goalie Nick Rose registered 45 saves in the defeat.
By the Numbers: Saskatchewan finished second in NLL attendance last season with an average of 14,921 fans per game, trailing Buffalo by only 227 ... Saskatchewan went 4-3 vs. East Division foes last season, and Toronto was 4-3 against the West ... The Rush scored the second-most goals in the NLL last season with 231 and had the second-best goals per game with 12.83. The Rock had 219 goals last season, which left them fourth in the East, and they had the fifth-ranked goals per game at 12.17 ... The Rush were fourth in total goals allowed at 212 and goals allowed per game at 11.78. The Rock gave up only 200 goals total and just 11.11 per game ... Rush forward Mark Matthews was named to the NLL\'s First Team All-Pro following last season, while teammate Mike Messenger earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team. Messenger finished tied for fourth in defence scoring last season and led all rookies in penalty minutes ... Saskatchewan was right behind with 231 goals and a 12.83 goals-per-game average ... The Rush were 8-3 when leading after the first quarter, 7-1 when up a halftime, and 10-1 when ahead after three quarters. The Rush were also 4-1 in one-goal games ... The Rush ended the 2017 regular season 8-1 at home, 4-5 on the road, and 8-3 against West Division opponents ... The Rock were 7-3 when leading at halftime and 7-2 when leading after three quarters of play, but 2-7 when trailing after three ... Toronto averaged the second-fewest penalty minutes per game last season at only 11.78. Saskatchewan was in the middle of the pack at 15.33 per game, though the Rush were tied with New England, Vancouver, and Rochester with four game misconducts.
Rush vs. Rock - Season-by-Season Glance
15-10 Rush win (Mark Matthews and Robert Church both register seven-point games)
13-11 Rock win (Tom Schreiber notches one goal and four assists)
11-9 Rush win (Curtis Knight scores twice and adds three assists)
13-8 Rush win (Mark Matthews and Robert Church each collect six points)
**11-10 Rush win (Mark Matthews tallies eight points including five goals)
*15-9 Rush win (Mark Matthews, Robert Church & Ben McIntosh all notch six points)
11-9 Rush win (Mark Matthews racks up seven points including five assists)
16-15 OT Rock win (Rob Hellyer caps 10-point game with overtime winner)
*Denotes playoff win - Game 1 of Champion\'s Cup
**Denotes playoff win - Game 2 of Champion\'s Cup
13-10 Rush win (Zack Greer scores hat trick in five-point effort)
11-10 Rush win (Cory Conway racks up two goals and three assists)
17-12 Rush win (Mark Matthews and Zack Greer each notch hat tricks)
10-9 Rock win (Garrett Billings leads Toronto attack with six points)
12-11 Rock win (Colin Doyle racks up one goal and seven assists)
12-8 Rock win (Garrett Billings registers one goal and six assists)
13-7 Rock win (Blaine Manning notches one goal and five assists)
18-14 Rush win (Corey Small registers seven points including hat trick)
16-7 Rock win (Blaine Manning pots 10 points on five goals and five assists)
14-13 Rush win (Ryan Powell notches eight points including four goals)
16-12 Rush win (Andy Secore fires in five goals plus three assists)
16-9 Rock win (Lewis Ratcliff scores four goals with three assists)
14-9 Rock win (Josh Sanderson picks up one goal and six assists)
14-9 Rock win (Aaron Wilson registers four goals and one assist)
12-9 Rock win (Aaron Wilson racks up one goal and four assists)
14-8 Rock win (Blaine Manning scores once and chips in 10 assists)
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