The Saskatchewan Rush went out on a winning note to an otherwise disappointing season on Saturday night against the Panther City. Meanwhile, young goaltender Cameron Dunkerley was the story of the game.
A 6-1 second half for the Rush lifted them to a 13-9 win in Forth Worth, their fourth victory in a row, in an otherwise meaningless game as both teams were going to miss the playoffs.
Saskatchewan decided to go with a much younger lineup for this game. Legend Jeff Shattler was a healthy scratch, meaning his final NLL game was a victory at home last weekend. Meanwhile, the Rush gave rookie Cameron Dunkerley his first-ever NLL start in goal.
Cameron Dunkerley a slam dunk
Prior to Saturday night’s game, 22-year-old goaltender Cameron Dunkerley had only received 61 seconds of playing time as he was the backup for Adam Shute.
Dunkerley has given an opportunity and he ran with it. Panther City had at least three breakaway opportunities in the first half, and Dunkerley stopped every one of them.
Even after giving up a pair of tough goals 20 seconds apart in the second quarter, the young goaltender kept his composure.
In the second half, he only allowed one goal through the entire 30 minutes of play, stopping 22 of 23 shots. Dunkerley finished the game stopping 40 of 49 shots in the win. Sometimes the saves weren’t always pretty or “technically sound” but he kept the ball out of the net.
To the game
Right off the bat, Panther City found themselves in penalty trouble. Chad Cummings took a five-minute major 1:10 into the game after hitting Robert Church in the head with his stick.
The Rush would capitalize on the man-advantage with Mark Matthews and Marshall Powless each finding the back of the net to give Saskatchewan an early 2-0 lead.
Nathan Grenon and Will Malcom would reply for Panther City to tie up the game.
Jeff Cornwall went coast-to-coast on transition to score a breakaway goal at 9:42 which give the Rush a 3-2 lead.
Josh Medeiros would tie up the game on a two-on-one break. Grenon would give the Purple-and-White the lead with one second left in the quarter.
PCLC pulls away in the second
Right off the draw to start the second quarter, Mike Messenger would win the draw and defenseman Kyle Rubisch would score a rare goal nine seconds into the frame.
Patrick Dodds would regain the lead at 2:06 on the man advantage. Twenty seconds later, Phil Caputo would make it 6-4 for Panther City.
Robert Church would get on the board at 4:20 when his shot would hit the post, and go off of Kevin Orleman and into the net.
Not to be outdone, Connor Sellars would get one by Dunkerley at 8:02 to restore Panther City’s two-goal cushion.
Saskatchewan’s young guns got in on the action at 10:36 with a marker from Holden Garlent. Dodds would reply at 12:11 to make to 8-6.
Matthews scored his second of the game with 37 seconds left in the first half to make the score 8-7 for PCLC at the break.
Rush take over the second half
The Saskatchewan Rush completely took over in the second half as the offence came alive and their young goaltender stood tall.
They opened the third quarter with a four-goal run with markers from Church, Ryan Keenan, Holden Garlent and a shorthanded goal from Dan Lintner. Make the score 11-8 for Saskatchewan.
Panther City’s lone goal came with 51 seconds left in the third from Sellars.
Keenan opened the fourth quarter with a highlight reel, behind-the-back goal at 5:40 to make it 12-9. Keenan’s hat trick goal would come at 11:12 of the fourth to round out the scoring.
At the other end of the rink, Orleman stopped 37 of 50 shots in the loss.
Robert Church, 2g 4a
Ryan Keenan, 3g 2a
Mark Matthews, 2g 2a
Will Malcom, 1g 3a
Patrick Dodds, 2g 1a
Cam Milligan, 3a
Shawn Slaght has been a sports reporter across the Canadian prairies for over 10 years and has experience covering everything from junior hockey to World Cup skiing to all levels of lacrosse. He is the Saskatchewan correspondent for All Lacrosse All The Time.