For a third straight season, and second in Saskatoon, the Saskatchewan Rush are off to the NLL’s Champions Cup final.
The Rush emerged in a tight defensive battle to beat the Colorado Mammoth 11-10 in game two to sweep the West Division Final 2-0.
Mike Messenger was the unlikely hero. The rookie defenseman picked up a loose ball in his own end and chugged through several Mammoth defenders before slotting the ball in the far corner.
It would end up being the game winner.
“I thought I could take him 1-on-1 but then saw he was already on the ground so I thought I had a chance for a goal,” Messenger said, quite happy to have a shot at the title in his first NLL season.
“I knew we had a shot this year and just to have that opportunity with all these guys is great.”
A defenseman scoring the winning goal was a fitting cap to the cont t, played in front of over 14,000 towel-waving fans in Saskatoon. Both teams were in shutdown mode early as the first goal for either team came 8:15 into the contest. By the end of the first half, it was tied 4-4.
“Three one goal games in the regular season and tonight, sure enough, was a one-goal game and they played right to the end,” Rush head coach Derek Keenan said.
— Ryan Brandt (@Ryan_Brandt) May 21, 2017
Mark Matthews paced the offense with two goals and six points. Robert Church and Ben McIntosh added a pair of their own. Ryan Keenan, Adam Jones and Matt Dinsdale joined Messenger with singles.
Aaron Bold made 32 saves in the win as the Rush outshot Colorado 48-42.
The win means the stage is set for the 2017 Champions Cup final. Saskatchewan will take on the Georgia Swarm, who beat Toronto 13-9 in a series-clinching win on Saturday.
The best of three championship series gets underway Sunday, June 4 in Georgia.