The Saskatchewan Rush roll into Colorado this Saturday with a chance to emerge as the lone unbeaten team left in the National Lacrosse League for 2018.
However, the Mammoth is also 3-0 and coming off a bye-week.
There are several similarities heading into the first place showdown in the Western Conference. Both the Rush and Mammoth have two road wins and have two of the NLL’s top snipers. Saskatchewan’s Ben McIntosh has 11 goals and is tied for the league lead with former teammate Adam Jones of Toronto. McIntosh also leads the NLL with five power-play goals.
Colorado’s Ryan Benesh is tied for third with Georgia’s Jesse King with ten tallies. McIntosh and Benesh have played one fewer game than their goal scoring peers.
Rush Coach and GM Derek Keenan praised Colorado’s offence as part of a strong overall attack.
“They’ve been a good team for a couple of years,” said Keenan.
The Rush bench boss felt the Mammoth have built on last year’s appearance in the Western Conference final.
“They played us in the Western final last year and gave us a real push. They’ve got great defence, great goaltending and they’ve got a lot of weapons on offence.”
The game will also feature two of the top goaltenders in the league. Colorado’s Dillon Ward has picked up where he left off as the NLL’s 2017 goalie of the year. Ward has the best goals against average of 8.67 and the top save percentage at .828.
Evan Kirk of the Rush earned the first star in last Saturday’s 13-9 win over the defending champion Swarm in Georgia and now sports the second-best GAA at 9.67 and a third-ranked save percentage of .793.
Kirk said he loves playing in big games.
“I enjoy being busy and I’m not thinking about the what if’s and all the negative thoughts, to think, swinging the ball and getting good shots, you know, I just stick to the principles and play a good game,” Said Kirk.
Jeff Shattler recorded a hat trick against the Swarm including one of three power-play goals for a Rush team rolling at 77.8% (7-9 ) with the man advantage on the road. The overall power play (11-16) has produced at a rate of 68.8%.
Shattler pointed out facing Colorado on the road is also their first game of the 2018 season against a western counterpart
“We’re getting all of these road games out of the way, which is good, but now we get to play a western team which is really important,” said Shattler who added it could be a challenge of “Mammoth” proportions.
“They’re a great team, they’ve got a great goalie, it’s going to be a battle, but I think our team, the way we’re playing, are going to be hard to beat.”
Game time from the Pepsi Centre is 8 p.m., the Rush-Hour pregame show on 98-COOL starts at 7 o’clock.