Church's Eight-Point Night Leads Rush to Season-Opening Win over Mammoth
Denver, CO - An eight-point outing for Robert Church paved the way for the Saskatchewan Rush to open their 2019-20 National Lacrosse League season-opener with a 9-8 victory over the Colorado Mammoth.
Church, who had a career-high 47 goals two seasons ago, potted a pair of goals in the first quarter, added his hat-trick tally during the Rush's four-goal run to erase the Mammoth's first lead of the night, and he drew assists on every Saskatchewan goal except the team's last of the night which turned out to be the game-winner from Connor Robinson.
"I got off to a quick start with two right off the bat and then battled from there," said Church. "When you throw it over to Mark (Matthews) or Ryan (Keenan), they're going to get something done."
Matthews finished the game with a goal and four assists, while Keenan and Robinson each scored twice. Both of Keenan's goals came on the power play, highlighted by spectacular strike that tied the game 5-5 late in the second quarter. Keenan found an open spot right in front of the Mammoth net and was gifted a picture-perfect backhand flip pass from Matthews to bury his shot.
Ben McIntosh also scored for the Rush, who have now won three of five season-openers wearing Saskatchewan colors.
"I think we're pretty happy with the win, starting out 1-0," said Church. "But we're just taking it one game at a time - 2-0, 3-0, and take it from there."
Church's two-goal cushion for the Rush was padded by a terrific first-quarter performance from Saskatchewan netminder Evan Kirk. The veteran and former NLL Goaltender of the Year made four big stops, including two off Joey Cupido, in the game's opening five minutes.
Kirk finished the night in the style as well. After the Mammoth cut the Rush's lead down to one, Kirk kept his club in front as he robbed Kyle Killen all alone in front of the net with two minutes to go in regulation. The Rush goalie got a good bit of help along the way as well.
Colorado secured a 6-5 lead with a power-play goal, but that lead lasted only 31 seconds as Robinson beat Mammoth goalie Dillon Ward through the legs. That was the first of four goals in a row for the Rush as Keenan connected for his second power-play goal and Church counted his hat-trick marker, taking a drop pass from a driving McIntosh and putting home a bounce shot in tight.
Robinson completed the Rush's four-goal run, coming off the wall and into a seam in the slot before beating Ward low to make it 9-6.
The Mammoth did get close late, but the Rush had two key defensive stands to keep the home side at bay. The Rush held Colorado to just two shots over the final five minutes of the third quarter, aided by two steals from defenceman Ryan Dilks and another by transition Jeremy Thompson. Right after Kirk turned aside Killen late in the fourth, Dilks again was there to thwart a last-ditch attempt by the Mammoth.
Following a bye week, the Rush have their hotly anticipated home opener on Saturday, December 14th when they host the New England Black Wolves.
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Robert Church of the Saskatchewan Rush in the season opener
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National Lacrosse League Stories from November 30, 2019
- Knighthawks Open Inaugural Season with Loss to Swarm - Rochester Knighthawks
- Georgia Swarm Start 2019-20 Season with Statement Win - Georgia Swarm
- Church's Eight-Point Night Leads Rush to Season-Opening Win over Mammoth - Saskatchewan Rush
- Rochester Knighthawks Game Preview: Saturday, November 30 vs. Georgia Swarm - Rochester Knighthawks
- Mammoth Fall to Rush in Season Opener 8-9 - Colorado Mammoth
- Roughnecks Spoil Warriors Home Opener - Vancouver Warriors
- Calgary Opens Season with Victory over Vancouver - Calgary Roughnecks
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