If one is an accident, two is a coincidence and three is a trend, then four must be a force of habit.
Four is the number of consecutive trips to the NLL Finals for the Saskatchewan Rush after the team survived a late surge by the Calgary Roughnecks to take the Western Final 15-13 at Sasktel Centre on Sunday.
The Rush came out flying to start the game. Jumping out to an early 4-2 lead on the scoreboard and a 19-7 lead on the shot counter.
Saskatchewan’s transition game and depth shone in the second quarter as they spread the scoring wealth. Taking a 6-2 lead on a Ben McIntosh powerplay goal, the game had potential to get out of hand.
Luckily for Roughnecks fans, their team is comfortable when facing large deficits.
Clawing back into the game, the Roughnecks — led by Wesley Berg, Curtis Dickson and Dane Dobbie — were able to make it an 8-5 game by halftime. Then 8-8 just over five minutes into the second half.
That’s when momentum swung Saskatchewan’s way. Robert Church sent a rocket of a shot that bounced off the cross bar, down and out. The call on the field was no goal as Rush players celebrated, forcing head coach Derek Keenan to throw his challenge flag.
“Those things are a bit of a crap shoot,” Keenan said. “When Robert and (McIntosh) said it was in, I threw it right away.”
It stood as a good goal, part of four straight to take a 12-9 lead going into the fourth. That’s when the usually responsible Rush began a parade to the penalty box.
“The last nine minutes of the game? Not very good,” a blunt Keenan said about his team’s discipline.
Adrian Sorichetti took a five-minute major penalty for high sticking with 10:54 remaining in the game. Calgary scored twice on that power play to make it a 14-11 game.
Then, in the final minutes of the game, the Rush took two penalties on the same play to turn the 11, 568- person crowd at Sasktel Centre from electric to nervous.
Keenan didn’t hold back when criticizing the referees after the game.
“The five-minute call…probably not even a penalty,” he said. “How they continue to buy guys throwing their heads back is beyond me.”
Nevertheless, it was the Rush cruising to victory in the final moments.
Calgary’s trio of Dobbie, Dickson and Berg accounted for 12 of Calgary’s 13 goals. Dickson had six, while Dobbie racked up nine assists.
By the end of the game, all seven Rush forwards had at least one goal.
“It’s tough to stop,” 13-year veteran Jeff Shattler said of his team’s offense. “I don’t know how a defensive coach can say anything to that.”
“We’re a five-man unit out there and anybody can score at any given time.”
Saskatchewan will now advance to play the Rochester Knighthawks in the best-of-three NLL Final on May 26 at Sasktel Centre. Game two takes place in Rochester on June 2. If necessary, the third game is in Saskatoon on June 9.
Saskatchewan lost twice to the K-Hawks this season, something no other team did.
“I really don’t feel we played to our full potential in those two games,” Shattler said. “Last time I went to the Champion’s Cup, they beat me. I’m looking to go back there and take one.”
If Shattler is any indication, fans won’t have to wonder how hungry the team is going its fourth consecutive Finals series.
“It’s a great feeling. I’ve only felt this way three times in my life,” he said. “I’ve been playing since I was two years old and there’s no cup that I want more than this year’s.”
“I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
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