SASKATOON – The Saskatchewan Rush began the weekend in a dead heat with the Colorado Mammoth atop the National Lacrosse League West division standings. They ended it as division champs.
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“This was probably the biggest weekend of a regular season that I’d ever had in my career and I’ve been playing in the league I think seven years now,” said Rush captain Chris Corbeil.
After beating the Mammoth 11-5 in Denver on Friday the Rush completed the home-and-home sweep Saturday with an 11-8 victory that saw Saskatchewan bust open a 6-6 tie with a five-goal run in the third quarter.
“When their defence stifled us a bit we just kept at it. We just kept grinding away and eventually we got the looks we needed and wanted and made some plays and put the ball in the back of the net,” said Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan.
READ MORE: Two hat tricks lead Rush over Mammoth 11-8
Forward Curtis Knight, making his return to the lineup after missing three games with a leg injury, scored one of two Rush hat tricks on the night. Two of Knight’s goals came during the team’s third-quarter surge.
“It felt great to be out there. Still a little sore, but it’s just good to get another game in,” he said. “I want to keep playing before playoffs and kind of build up to it.”
Winning the west for a third straight season means Knight and the rest of Saskatchewan’s banged-up bodies will get an important week of rest when the post-season begins, but that’s not the only reason the Rush are happy to have a first-round bye. While the West division final and Champions Cup final are both multi-game series, the opening round is a single elimination format.
“You don’t like playing a one-game elimination,” Corbeil said. “You never know what can happen. You run into a hot goalie, maybe some questionable refereeing, injuries, whatever it may be, and we’ve had that before.”
The Rush’s record now sits at 12-4 and the team has no plans to relax over its final two regular season games, both of which will be played on the road. First place overall is still up for grabs and with it, home floor advantage throughout the playoffs.
“We’re a game ahead of Buffalo right now and we’ve got to keep winning because they have a tie-breaker with us,” said Keenan, referring to the East division-leading Bandits. “We want to go in next week with our best effort in Vancouver and try and keep this thing rolling.”
The next action for the Rush is on April 23 when they visit the Vancouver Stealth.