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Rush vs. Roughnecks Game Notes

December 8, 2018 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Saskatchewan Rush News Release

Saskatchewan Rush vs. Calgary Roughnecks

7:30PM CST | Saturday, December 8th 2018

Co-op Field at SaskTel Centre

Pre and Post-Game Party Spot: Shoeless Joe's Saskatoon

The defending NLL Cup champion Saskatchewan Rush get their new season under way with an exhibition game against their prairie rivals, the Calgary Roughnecks.

The last time these two teams squared off, the Rush handed the Roughnecks a 15-13 defeat in the one-game, winner-take-all 2018 West Division Final. Saskatchewan went on to beat the Rochester Knighthawks 2-1 in the best-of-three NLL Cup Final to claim their third league title in the past four years.

Although history shows the Roughnecks still holding a somewhat sizable margin of victory in all-time regular-season meetings between the two teams, the Rush have in fact dominated the most-recent clashes. Last year's West Final victory upped the Rush's record to 8-3 in playoff games against the Roughnecks, and Saskatchewan has won 11 of the past 12 regular-season meetings as well.

The Rush won all three games against Calgary during the 2018 regular season which helped pushed them to a perfect 10-0 record against the entire West Division. It was the first time in NLL history under the 18-game regular-season format that a team had gone undefeated in divisional play.

The Rush completed last year's regular-season sweep of the Roughnecks in dramatic fashion as Mark Matthews tallied six assists, setting a new NLL single-season record with 84 assists in Saskatchewan's 11-10 win. Prior that, Ben McIntosh's overtime winner lifted the Rush to a 13-12 win in Calgary, and the Rush captured the first meeting of the season with a 10-6 decision behind 37 saves from Evan Kirk.

The rivalry between the two teams played out in perhaps the wildest examples prior to the start of the 2017 NLL season when the Rush and Roughnecks engaged in the "Christmas Showdown" exhibition tilt. The exhibition game ended in a 9-6 Rush win, but not before a nearly uncontrollable fracas arose late in the fourth quarter. The melee started with Calgary goalie Frank Scigliano slashing the Rush's Robert Church, escalated with several players shoving and a handful of punches thrown, and then culminated with Scigliano fighting former Rush goalie Aaron Bold at centre turf. In total, five players were handed suspensions for the season-opener.

Last weekend, the Rush opened their 2019 season training camp in Toronto and capped off the event with a exhibition game against the Rock. Ben McIntosh scored four goals while Curtis Knight (3 goals, 2 assists) and Mark Matthews (1 goal, 4 assists) each totaled five points as the Rush and Rock played to a 12-12 tie. Saskatchewan was down 11-3 at halftime but roared back in the second half, outscoring Toronto 8-1 while netting five power-play goals. Last year's playoff MVP Jeff Shattler scored twice in the game with Jeremy Thompson and 2018 first-round draft pick Connor Robinson adding one apiece. Ryan Keenan chipped in three assists, and Zach Gould, another '18 draft choice, provided two helpers. Adam Shute and Tyler Carlson split the goaltending duties for the Rush.

The Rush will officially get their new season started December 28th when they travel to New England to take on the Black Wolves. The Roughnecks' new campaign actually gets started much earlier as they play a home-and-home series with the Vancouver Warriors beginning December 15th in Calgary followed by the rematch December 21st in Vancouver.

Hard At It: It was a hectic past week for Derek Keenan wearing his general manager hat as the Rush's double-duty boss made sure he locked up several players for this season and beyond. The Rush signed reigning league MVP Mark Matthews, fellow forwards Ryan Keenan and Marty Dinsdale, and defenceman Matt Hossack all to three-year deals while getting second-year pro Nick Finlay to put his name on a new-one year contract. Keenan also bolstered his defensive group by acquiring Travis Cornwall from the Vancouver Warriors in exchange for a 2020 second-round draft pick.

Nine In Line: The Rush placed nine players inside the annual list of the league's Top 50 Players as compiled by The panel selected reigning league MVP and single-season assist record-breaker Mark Matthews at No. 1 with four-time Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Rubisch at No. 4. Robert Church cracked the top 10 at No. 6, while Ben McIntosh (15) and Chris Corbeil (19) both made the top 20. Playoff MVP Jeff Shattler was set at No. 37, former Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Dilks at No. 39, standout goaltender Evan Kirk at No. 43, and defensive stalwart Brett Mydske at No. 47. Earning a spot on the Honorable Mention list was defenceman Mike Messenger.

Statistically Speaking: 2018 Playoffs: For the third time in his career, the Rush's Mark Matthews finished on top of NLL playoff scoring with 22 points. He also led all playoff performers with 19 assists and two game-winning goals ... Ben McIntosh of the Rush finished in a tie for third in playoff scoring with 18 points and ended up fourth with 10 assists ... Saskatchewan's Robert Church and Jeff Shattler finished tied for fourth with 15 points, but Shattler's efforts over the final two games of the NLL Cup were what garnered him the Playoff MVP award ... 2018 Regular Season: Rush star Mark Matthews completed the regular season in style as he set a new NLL record for assists in a single season with 84, and captured the league scoring title with 116 points, which also broke his own team record for points in a season. Matthews led the NLL with 33 power-play assists and was tied for the league-lead with three game-winning goals ... The Rush's Robert Church finished second in league scoring with 107 points and tied for second in the league with 47 goals, one up on teammate Ben McIntosh. Church also finished sixth with 60 assists ... Saskatchewan finished the regular season with the top-ranked power play at 67.8% (59-for-87). Robert Church, Ben McIntosh and Ryan Keenan all tied for third in the league with 14 power-play goals, and Church also finished second with 27 power-play assists ... The Rush finished with the fifth-ranked penalty kill at 52.8% with eight shorthanded goals ... Rochester finished the season with the second-ranked power play at 59.7% but the Knighthawks had the second-worst penalty kill at 48.8% ... Rush goalie Evan Kirk led the league with 12 wins and finished with the second-best goals-against average at 10.82. He also had the fourth-best save-percentage at .777 ... Saskatchewan finished with a league-best 19.9% shooting percentage. Rush captain Chris Corbeil ranked fourth at 38.9% (7 goals on 18 shots).

By the Numbers: 2018 Playoffs: Rush goalie Evan Kirk wrapped up the playoffs tied for the league lead in wins with three. He placed second in both minutes played (238) and total saves (145), and was ranked third in save percentage (.767) ... The post-season was a notable one for the Rush's Matt Hossack as he finished tied for second amongst defencemen with five points and was second with two goals. Hossack also placed fourth in shooting percentage at ... 2018 Regular Season: Saskatchewan won the NLL's attendance derby with an average of 14,639 - 458 better than Buffalo. The Rush finished the season 6-3 on their home turf ... The Rush led the NLL with 254 goals scored and just 196 goals allowed. Saskatchewan topped the league with 14.11 goals scored per game and 10.89 goals allowed per game. Rochester finished third in both goals scored per game (13.11) and goals allowed per game (11.67) ... The Rush's Mark Matthews, Ryan Keenan and Robert Church all finished the regular season with 18-game assist streaks ... Jeremy Thompson of the Rush finished second in the league with 164 loose balls and fourth in faceoff wins with 234 ... Rush defenceman Kyle Rubisch finished seventh with 25 caused turnovers and 10th with 130 loose balls ... Saskatchewan was the only team in the league with three players in the top 10 of the Three Star Award voting. Robert Church was fifth with 26 points (3 x First Star, 3 x Second Star, 2 x Second Star), Mark Matthews was sixth with 24 points (3 x First Star, 2 x Second Star, 3 x Third Star), and Evan Kirk was eighth with 21 points (3 x First Star, 2 x Second Star) ... The Rush outscored their opposition 62-30 in first-quarter play ... The Rush were 12-2 when leading after the first quarter, 13-1 when leading at halftime, 13-1 when leading after three, and 11-0 when outshooting their opponents.

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