NLL Notebook: Saskatchewan Back on Top in the West


“The ball had eyes for me this week,” Rush forward Ben McIntosh said after scoring 11 goals in two games, both Saskatchewan wins.

The Saskatchewan Rush find themselves in familiar territory – back on the top of the National Lacrosse League West Division standings.

The Rush earned a pair of victories, starting Week 18 off on Friday with a critical 14-8 win against the team that entered the weekend in first place, the San Diego Seals. In the lone game on Saturday, Saskatchewan moved a full game ahead of the Seals with a comeback 16-11 triumph against the Philadelphia Wings.

The win against San Diego in Pechanga Arena featured a sock trick trick from Saskatchewan’s Ben McIntosh and a seven-goal Rush run in the third to wrap up the season series.

“The last three games just haven’t been good enough,” San Diego coach and general manager Patrick Merrill said. “They’re a good team and I felt like we hung in there in the first half of the game. I thought it had the makings of a great game for first place here tonight and obviously it took us too long to get going offensively.”

Saturday saw the Rush mount an impressive final quarter after their flight home, shutting the Wings out in the final 15 minutes to come back from down 11-9 at the start of the frame. Mark Matthews, who finished with five goals and three assists, was a catalyst in the late run, notching three goals and an assist in the last frame.

“At that point, you’re just running on fumes and adrenaline,” McIntosh said. “It seemed to take us pretty far there.”

McIntosh had another strong game, scoring five.

“It just seemed like the ball had eyes for me this week,” McIntosh said. “I’m not going to question it.”

Philadelphia got eight points each from Kevin Crowley and Matt Rambo.

Bottom of West staying interesting

The final spot in the West Division playoff race is still up for grabs entering the final two weeks of the season thanks to a Vancouver win and Colorado loss.

Colorado stormed back from down 9-6 in the fourth quarter but still suffered an upset loss when Rochester’s Kyle Jackson scored an overtime game-winner to give the Knighthawks a 10-9 edge on Friday.

“I think the most disappointing thing is that we didn't get a win for our fans, this being Fan Appreciation Night,” Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle said. “I really appreciate our fans and how good they are, how lucky we are to be playing here, to be employed here. I really feel grateful for that. At least we made it exciting but it really would have been nice to get a W for our fans.”

To make matters worse, Eli McLaughlin left the game with an upper-body injury that Coyle said “doesn’t look good.”

The Warriors steamrolled Philadelphia thanks to a franchise-record nine goals in the first quarter in a 19-11 win on Sunday. Keegan Bal totaled 14 points, three off the NLL all-time single-game record held by Mark Steenhuis, on five goals and nine assists. Aaron Bold made 62 saves and Jordan McBride scored five times.

Vancouver’s battle for the playoffs is still an uphill one, as the Warriors need to beat both Rochester and Toronto and have the Mammoth lose to San Diego and Saskatchewan. Not unrealistic, especially on the Colorado side.

The Calgary Roughnecks still have a shot at moving up from their current position, third in the West, after an impressive 13-12 victory against the Georgia Swarm on Friday. Curtis Dickson broke a long-lasting 12-12 tie with 2:04 remaining on a shorthanded goal, helping the Riggers escape despite late penalties.

“It’s big,” Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky said. “You don’t write it up like this, but it’s nice to go through that and win that one-goal game. I think for us to battle back late in the game, be able to tie it, have Dickson score the big goal, not freak out and kill the powerplays, it’s huge.”

Calgary is a half game behind San Diego and a game and a half behind Saskatchewan.

Look at the East

Georgia’s loss to the Roughnecks slid the Swarm down to second in the East and pushed the Buffalo Bandits back up to first during the team’s bye week. Buffalo holds a half-game lead with two outings left on the regular season schedule, games against New England and San Diego.

The Toronto Rock clinched a top-three seed in the East with their 13-12 win against the fourth-seeded New England Black Wolves.

Toronto, which moved to 11-6, went on a three-goal run at the end of the third and start of the fourth to break a 10-10 tie. The Black Wolves made things interesting in the final eight minutes, rallying to within one thanks to goals from Dereck Downs and Joe Resetarits, but were unable to equalize.

“The reality is going into the playoff, there’s going to be tight games,” Toronto coach Matt Sawyer said. “We’ve been good in them and hopefully that helps us moving forward.”

New England is the only team locked into its position, fourth, in the East. Toronto is a game and a half behind the Bandits and a half game behind Georgia.

Week 19 Preview

Mammoth at Seals
Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET

San Diego’s grasp on the West was lost with three straight losses to playoff teams – Georgia, New England and Saskatchewan. It doesn’t get easier with Colorado and Buffalo left, but the Seals have won both previous meetings with the Mammoth. Garrett Billings put up seven points in the later matchup on March 9.

Wings at Swarm
Saturday, 7:05 p.m. ET

Georgia’s loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the club. Kevin Poulin left the game early with a lower-body injury and was replaced by Kevin Orleman, who made 26 saves. The Wings had a sentimental debut this week, as Patrick Resch suited up in the NLL for the first time. He’s the son of former Wings player and coach Tony Resch.

Warriors at Knighthawks
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

Just when the Knighthawks seemed left for dead, they’ve won two straight against a playoff team, Toronto, and one with a good shot at the postseason in Colorado. Ryan Benesch has a combined five goals and five assists in the pair of games. Fun fact on Keegan Ball: His 14 points this week were two shy of his previous season high, set in eight games in 2016, and were two points better than his total in three games in 2017.

Black Wolves at Bandits
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

The Bandits control their own destiny again with the Swarm loss and meet a New England team with nothing to play for standings-wise. Buffalo crushed the Pack in the teams’ only previous meeting, a 15-5 result at Mohegan Sun Arena in January. Dhane Smith was a tactician in that game, tearing the Black Wolves defense up for nine assists.

Rush at Roughnecks
Saturday, 9 p.m.

As LaxAllStars’ Evan Schemenauer calculated on Sunday, the Roughnecks still have a path to No. 1 in the West. Calgary needs both the Rush and the Seals to lose their remaining two games each. This is the one time their fate is a bit in their own hands on that front. These teams split the previous two matchups.

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