The Saskatchewan Rush saw their six-game winning streak come to an end on Friday night as the New England Black Wolves mounted a furious fourth-quarter comeback to earn a 14-13 win at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.
New England (8-5), which came into the game sitting second in the NLL’s East Division, scored six times in the fourth quarter including the game’s final four goals. Reigning NLL MVP Shawn Evans notched the game-winner with 3:06 to go, capping a nine-point game for the former Calgary Roughnecks star who was traded to the Wolves in the off-season.
The Rush (10-4) started the game on fire as the commandeered a 6-1 lead through the first quarter. Robert Church scored the Rush’s first two goals and then the Saskatchewan power play went to work with two straight tallies. Mark Matthews was left wide open in the high slot to bury a shot, and only 1:03 later, Zack Greer rifled a long shot past New England goalie Tye Belanger to put the Rush up 4-1. Ben McIntosh made it 5-1 as he neatly put a twister shot into the net after a slick pass in front from Matthews. Another rocket shot from Greer’s stick put the Rush up by five and put Belanger on the New England bench.
Saskatchewan scored its sixth straight goal early in the second quarter as Nik Bilic made it 7-1 on a terrific individual effort, as he bounced off a defender, went hard to the net and tucked a shot past Evan Kirk, who had replaced Belanger in the Black Wolves net. By the end of the first half, Church had scored his hat-trick goal and Saskatchewan led 8-4 at the break.
The two teams went back-and-forth in the third. Matthews struck twice for the Rush – the first on a delayed penalty and the second was his hat-trick marker. Greer counted the Rush’s fourth power-play goal of the game and gave Saskatchewan an 11-8 lead after three quarters.
New England owned the fourth quarter, however, and started its comeback with a shorthanded goal from Kyle Buchanan. Goals from Matthews and Matthew Dinsdale helped the Rush stay in front, but the Wolves kept charging. Kevin Crowley tied it 13-13 with 4:17 left as the Wolves clicked for the fifth time on the power play. Evans put the Wolves ahead to stay with his third of the night.
The Rush’s loss spoiled a nine-point effort from Matthews (4 goals, 5 assists) as well as big nights for both Church (3 goals, 5 assists) and Greer (3 goals, 3 assists). Aaron Bold finished with 33 saves in the Saskatchewan net.
The Rush have a key home-and-home set against the Colorado Mammoth next weekend that could determine the final seeding for the West Division playoffs. Next Friday night, the two teams clash at the Pepsi Center in Denver, and then one night later, they’ll battle on the turf at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.