Swarm Buzz Past Rush in Game 1 of Champion's Cup Final
Duluth GA- An outburst of seven straight goals in the second half proved to be too much for the Saskatchewan Rush to overcome as the Georgia Swarm captured Game 1 of the Champion's Cup Final 18-14 on Sunday afternoon.
The two-time defending NLL champion Rush will now have to win Game 2 coming up on Saturday, June 10 back home at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon to keep themselves alive and push the best-of-three series to a deciding game.
The loss ended the Rush's nine-game playoff winning streak dating back to the 2015 West Final which paved the way to their consecutive title reigns.
"We had too many unforced errors and turnovers, and we gave them way too many easy possessions that wore our defence down," said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan. "We'll make some adjustments. We're a better defensive team than that and we need to take care of the ball better."
Curtis Knight's quick-stick strike with 2.2 seconds left in the second quarter along with a goal from Robert Church one minute into the third quarter, and a power-play marker from Adam Jones gave the Rush an 11-7 cushion, but the Swarm, who are known for their potent offence, rattled off seven goals in a row to take control of the game and never let up.
Back-to-back goals from Shayne Jackson - the second coming with just 14 seconds left in the third quarter - brought the Swarm even 11-11. Georgia's wild swing in momentum carried forward into the fourth with a lucky break putting them in front to stay. Jordan Hall's attempted pass into the slot deflected off the stick of Rush defenceman Kyle Rubisch and eluded Aaron Bold giving the Swarm a 12-11 lead. Randy Staats' shot to the far corner put the Swarm up by two, and Miles Thompson, the league's leading scorer during the regular season, finally got on the board after a slow start as he scored just moments after the Rush's Jeff Cornwall was foiled on a breakaway by Georgia goalie Mike Poulin.
Trailing 14-11, the Rush put a quick rally together when Jones notched his hat trick marker on a delayed penalty call, and Mark Matthews followed on the ensuing major penalty with a rocket for his hat trick to get Saskatchewan close. The Swarm grabbed the momentum right back, though, as Miles Thompson and Kyle Matisz scored 50 seconds apart to put Georgia ahead 16-13.
Hall's fifth of the game pushed the Swarm to a four-goal bulge and more than enough to lock up the victory. Georgia wound up outscoring Saskatchewan 11-5 in the second half.
Jeremy Thompson, who was held pointless in the West Final, scored three goals for the Rush as he faced his three brothers in the Georgia lineup. Matthews (3 goals, 4 assists) and Robert Church (2 goals, 5 assists) led the Rush with seven points. Matthews, the league's second-leading scorer during the regular season, scored back-to-back power-play goals late in the first quarter to give the Rush a 4-3 lead. Jones had the Rush's other special teams goal on the night as the tallied a terrific shorthanded goal early in the second, dodging past two Swarm defenders then diving into the crease while putting his shot to the top corner. Initially waved off by the referee, the Rush used a coach's challenge and the video review proved successful for Jones and the Rush.
Knight, with a pair, and a single from Ryan Keenan rounded out the scoring for Saskatchewan. Bold totaled 36 saves in the Saskatchewan net.
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National Lacrosse League Stories from June 4, 2017
- Georgia Swarm Takes Game 1 of Champion's Cup with 18-14 Victory - Georgia Swarm
- Swarm Buzz Past Rush in Game 1 of Champion's Cup Final - Saskatchewan Rush
- It's Time to Defend. The. Cup. - Saskatchewan Rush
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