December 5, 2017 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Saskatchewan Rush
Saskatchewan Rush vs. Georgia Swarm
SaskTel Centre, Saskatoon SK
The two combatants for last season\'s Champion\'s Cup will renew their rivalry in National Lacrosse League pre-season action as the Saskatchewan Rush host the Georgia Swarm.
After winning back-to-back league titles in 2015 and 2016, the Rush were dethroned as NLL champions by the Swarm last spring as Georgia captured its first title by beating Saskatchewan 2-0 in the best-of-three Final.
Georgia won Game 1 of the Final with an 18-14 decision at home, and then got the series-clinching goal 1:14 into overtime from Miles Thompson to take Game 2 15-14 in Saskatchewan.
The Rush held an 11-7 lead in Game 1 but the Swarm responded with a seven-goal run that proved to be too much for Saskatchewan to overcome. Georgia wound up outscoring the Rush 11-5 in the second half. Mark Matthews, the leading scorer in the playoffs, along with Adam Jones and Jeremy Thompson each notched hat tricks for the Rush. Curtis Knight and Robert Church both scored twice for Saskatchewan with Ryan Keenan adding a single.
The loss snapped the Rush\'s nine-game playoff win streak dating back to the Game 3 of the 2015 West Final against Calgary. Saskatchewan went on to win two straight over Toronto in that year\'s Cup Final, and then swept two games from Calgary (2016 West Final), Buffalo (2016 Cup Final), and Colorado (2017 West Final).
In Game 2, Robert Church connected for four goals and Adam Jones counted his hat-trick marker to give the Rush a 14-13 lead with 1:12 to go in regulation. Ben McIntosh also scored three for the Rush, while Ryan Keenan added a pair, and Jeremy Thompson and Matt Hossack each tallied once.
The Rush advanced to their third straight Champion\'s Cup Final by sweeping the Colorado Mammoth 2-0 in the West Division Final. Saskatchewan captured Game 1 in Denver with an 18-9 pounding behind a six-goal effort from Adam Jones. Saskatchewan set franchise playoff records by scoring 14 goals in the second half and nine goals in the fourth quarter along with most total goals. The Rush ended the series with an 11-10 win at SaskTel Centre that was pushed along by a six-point game from Mark Matthews.
Georgia advanced to the Champion\'s Cup with a two-game sweep of the Toronto Rock in the East Division Final.
Statistically Speaking: Georgia\'s Lyle Thompson edged out Saskatchewan\'s Mark Matthews 116-113 for top spot in NLL scoring last season. Matthews had 73 assists to lead the league, while Thompson racked up 45 goals. Thompson and Matthews also finished 1-2 in Three Star 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) ... Georgia also placed Shayne Jackson (84) and Jordan Hall (80) amongst the top-20 scorers with the Rush also represented in that group by Robert Church (77) ... For the second straight season, the Rush\'s Robert Church led the NLL in power-play goals. After scoring 17 in 2016, Church notched 21 goals on the power play in 2017. Mark Matthews helped the cause along with a league-high 29 power-play assists ... New Rush starting goaltender Evan Kirk led the NLL last season with 676 saves ... 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 all-time leader in the category.
By the Numbers: Prior to meeting in last season\'s Champion\'s Cup, the Rush and Swarm had met only once in NLL playoff action. That meeting came in the 2012 West Final with the Rush pounding the Swarm 15-3 in the one-game showdown. Of that 2012 edition of the Rush team, only five players now remain - Kyle Rubisch, Chris Corbeil, Brett Mydske, Jeff Cornwall, and Ryan Dilks ... Georgia\'s Lyle Thompson led the NLL with four game-winning goals last season ... Saskatchewan finished in NLL attendance last season with an average of 14,921 fans per game, trailing Buffalo by only 227 ... 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 ... Georgia had the NLL\'s top offence a year ago with 266 goals, averaging 14.78 goals per game. 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 Swarm were 6-1 when leading after the first quarter and 6-2 when trailing after the first quarter. Georgia was also 10-1 when leading at halftime and 9-1 when leading after three quarters.