Every game is a must-win for the Saskatchewan Rush to keep their playoff hopes alive and they took that first step on Saturday night, picking up a 15-13 win over the Vancouver Warriors on home turf.
The Rush headed into the game with a new look behind the bench after the firing on head coach Jeff McComb. Jimmy Quinlan was promoted to associate head coach along side GM Derek Keenan and Quinlan picked up his first win as a head coach.
“It was needed for those guys,” Quinlan said. “They’ve competed hard all year. It’s been a long season and we’re not used to being where we are, but again, the message to the guys is to just play what’s in front of us and at the end of the day just be themselves.”
For the players, having their head coach get fired gave them that extra motivation to come out strong against the Warriors.
“That’s not just on Jeff, he’s a great coach, a great person. We really feel for him and that’s on all of us,” said forward Josh Currier. “I think we needed that change and it’s unfortunate that that’s the one we had to do.”
After struggling most of the season, Currier broke out with four goals and an assist to lead the Rush to the win.
Warriors grab early lead
Vancouver opened the scoring 1:35 into the game. Eric Penney was pulled and was trying to get back into the net when Brandon Goodwin found the open cage.
Saskatchewan would reply with Josh Currier driving to the net to beat Alex Buque at 4:36 on the power play.
Right off the ensuing faceoff, Mike Messenger ran the floor and found an open Connor McClelland to make it 2-1 for the Rush.
Kyle Killen’s low shot follow by a laser beam by Keegan Bal put the Warriors back in the lead 3-2.
With a defender draped all over him, Ryan Keenan would score with 52.2 seconds left in the quarter. However, with 19.3 seconds left Killen would receive a pass wide open in front of the net to make it 4-3 Vancouver after the first frame.
Dan Lintner would put one through the wickets of Buque 4:51 into the second and we were back to a tied game 4-4.
Killen would score his third of the game on the power play at 6:34 and Bal diving through the crease would finish off a two-goal run for Vancouver to make it 6-4 for the Warriors.
Rush pull out in front to keep playoff hopes alive
The Rush offense woke up midway through the second with a four goal run to retake the lead, starting with Mark Matthews finding Dan Lintner at the side of the net for the quick stick at 8:58 on the power play.
Currier and Jeff Shattler would add to the total to make it 7-6. Finally, Matt Beers would find a streaking Matthews on transition at 11:06 to extend that lead.
Killen’s dunk shot from behind the net at 12:44 to make it 8-7. Shattler rounded out the scoring with 19 seconds left in the second quarter to make it 9-7 Rush.
It only took 53 seconds into the third for Vancouver to get back into the game with another marker from Bal. Saskatchewan replied with Ryan Keenan finding Shattler in traffic for the goal to make it 10-8 at 2:16.
A low shot from the restraining line by Bal at 6:19 would fool Penney. The Warriors back within one 10-9.
The Rush would restore the two-goal cushion on the power play. Keenan would find Robert Church for the quick stick at 9:43.
Vancouver quick replied 30 seconds later with Bal diving across the crease again to make it 11-10.
Messenger joined the party. Playing some offence, he was found open at the side of the net and fired one home at 12:27.
Killen with the sock trick
Still exchanging goals, Killen dove from behind the net for his sock trick 25 seconds later to make it 12-11 at the end of the third.
Messenger scored his second of the game 1:33 into the fourth quarter to make it 13-11 for the Rush. Bal replied at 3:46 on the power play and the Warriors were back within one.
The Rush kept fights to keep their playoff hopes alive. A bit of a weak shot by Currier got by Buque at 4:24 and he added another one after Keenan found him in traffic for the goal. Make the score 15-12.
Logan Schuss would take an untimely holding penalty with 2:49 left to play and down three. Killen would score at 2:03. The goal would count of shorthanded although they had the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker. Make the final 15-13 for the Rush to keep Saskatchewan’s playoff hopes alive.
Ryan Keenan, 1g 6a
Robert Church, 1g 6a
Mark Matthews, 1g 5a
Keegan Bal, 5g 5a
Kyle Killen, 7g
Logan Schuss, 6a
Jimmy Quinlan spoke to the media after picking up his first win as the Rush’s head coach.
Rush forward Josh Currier spoke after the game:
Rush forward Jeff Shattler met with the media after Saturday night’s game:
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.