Shawn Slaght, All Lacrosse All The Time – A Division of the Edge of Philly Sports Network
Mark Matthews buried the game-winning goal with 38.1 seconds left as the Saskatchewan Rush downed the Las Vegas Desert Dogs 13-12 on Saturday night in the NLL season finale.
The game featured two up-and-coming goaltenders in the league Laine Hruska and Landon Kells and they didn’t disappoint. Coming off of injury, Kells stopped 41 of 54 shots in the loss. Meanwhile, Hruska started his second straight game and got his second win. He stopped 35 of 47 shots including a clutch save that set up the game-winning goal.
It was a historic night on a couple of fronts as well. The Desert Dogs’ James Barclay broke the NLL record for most blocked shots in a season. Before the game, the Rush’s Marty Dinsdale announced he will be retiring at the end of the season, ending a lengthy career in the NLL.
Vegas takes early lead
Marshal King got the Desert Dogs on the board first only 56 seconds into the game. But that lead would be short-lived.
Enter rookie Clark Walter. He took a behind-the-back pass from Matthews on the power play at 10:25 to tie up the game. Just under three minutes later he struck again. Walter let a quick stick shot go in traffic to make it 2-1 for the Rush.
Las Vegas finished off the first quarter with a three-goal run. Jack Hannah took a behind-the-back pass from Rob Hellyer with 4:12 left in the quarter on the power play. An errant Matthews pass would spring Nick Ellerton on the breakaway with 51 seconds left. With 15 seconds left on the clock, Zack Greer found the back of the net to give the Desert Dogs a 4-2 lead at the break.
Rush can’t retake the lead
The second quarter saw the Rush come within one-goal three times, but they were unable to find the equalizer.
Dan Linter got on the board 1:37 into the second quarter to make it 4-3. Sam Firth would restore the two-goal cushion at 12:47 when the ball popped out of Greer’s stick right to Firth who buried it.
Mike Mallory, who has been on-and-off the Rush roster all season, scored on transition to again get Saskatchewan within one. Jon Phillips’ bouncer shot at 7:45 beat Hruska to make it 6-4.
Mike Messenger scored a weird goal with 5:27 left to play. He threw the ball at the net from an awkward angle which hit Kells and went into the net to make it 6-5.
Hannah continued his standout rookie season as he took his time and dodged defenders before letting a sidearm shot go to make it 7-5 for the Desert Dogs at the half.
Same old story in the third
The third quarter played out very similar to the second quarter. The Rush were able to get as close a one-goal deficit, but couldn’t sustain momentum.
Saskatchewan opened the scoring only 20 seconds into the quarter with a power play marker from Keenan.
On transition 2:36 into the third quarter, Tor Reinholdt fed Connor Kirst in a two-on-one. Kirst faked out Hruska and buried the goal to make it 8-6.
The Rush replied right back on transition as Robert Church picked a corner to bring Saskatchewan within one again 8-7.
On the power play with 4:23 left to play, Hellyer sent a behind-the-back pass to Hannah for his hat-trick goal.
Keenan struck again just under a minute later.
King scored a highlight reel goal to round out the third-quarter scoring. Hannah sent a pass to King behind the net and he dunked it in to make it 10-8 for Las Vegas heading into the final frame.
Mark Matthews the hero in the fourth quarter
Greer scored two minutes into the fourth quarter to give Las Vegas a 11-8 lead and the situation started to look bleak for the Rush.
However, Saskatchewan outscored Vegas 5-1 in a span of five minutes for the win.
Lintner got the Rush back within two at 6:44 and 22 seconds later Jake Boudreau scored on transition to make it 11-10.
The trend continued as Greer scored with 3:24 left in the game to put Vegas up by two. Twenty seconds later, Church would find Keenan down the middle. Keenan dodged a couple defenders before burying the shot to make it 12-11.
With 1:49 left, Matthews found Keenan down the middle again. He let a low shot go that would tie up the game leading to a wild finish.
Reid Reinholdt found himself on a breakaway with less than a minute left to play. Hruska held strong and made the stop. Kyle Rubisch pick up the rebound in the crease and passed it up to Boudreau. Boudreau found Mark Matthews coming out of the gate. Matthews held up with defenders in front of him and let a laser of a shot go that beat Kells with 38.1 seconds left on the clock for the game-winner.
Ryan Keenan, 4g 2a
Mark Matthews, 1g 4a
Clark Walter, 2g 1a
Rhys Duch, 3a
Robert Church, 1g 2a
Las Vegas Desert Dogs
Rob Hellyer, 8a
Jack Hannah, 3g 4a
Zack Greer, 3g 1a