There were record-setting crowds, a bevy of highlight-reels goals and saves, a couple of hum-dinger fights, and a buzz that emanated out of SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon right through the entire province. And, last but definitely not least, a second straight National Lacrosse League title.
With the good times still in high gear, here’s a look back at how the Rush’s 2016 went from Game 1 right through to moment they lifted the Champion’s Cup:
Game 1: Rush top Calgary in season-opener
Saskatchewan erased a 6-2 deficit at the Saddledome to come from behind and beat the Roughnecks 10-8. Robert Church scored the winner with 3:43 to go but the real difference in the game were three shorthanded goals by the Rush including two on the same Calgary power play.
Church, Mark Matthews and Zack Greer each scored twice, while Curtis Knight collected five assists as he returned from a one-year absence due to injury.
Game 2: Stealth steal Rush’s home-turf debut in Saskatchewan
The Rush arrived in Saskatchewan but unfortunately their first game at SaskTel Centre didn’t wind up as well as they’d hoped. Former Rush Corey Small scored five goals including four during a late rally as the Vancouver Stealth crashed the Rush’s party with a 13-11 verdict.
For the Rush, Mark Matthews racked up six points (1 goal, 5 assists), Robert Church notched a hat trick, and Nik Bilic ignited a crowd of over 9,100 with a wild fight. Curtis Knight goes down as the player who scored the Rush’s first goal on their new home turf.
Game 3: Rush maul Mammoth to pick up first win in Saskatchewan
Robert Church potted the game-winner with under five minutes to go as the Rush battled back from an early deficit to top Colorado 12-10 and pick up their first home-turf win of the season.
The Rush got a first-half hat trick from Zack Greer and Mark Matthews posted his own hat trick in the second half to push Saskatchewan to victory. The victory was the Rush’s seventh in their last eight regular-season games against Colorado.
Game 4: Greer guns seven goals as Rush pound Roughnecks
In one of the greatest individual performances in team history, Zack Greer scored seven goals – six of them coming in the second quarter – as the Rush sent the visiting Calgary Roughnecks to defeat for the second time in the young season with a 19-12 victory.
More than 10,500 fans at SaskTel Centre watched Greer put forth a masterful shooting showcase. Greer set team records for most goals a single game, most goals by one player in one-quarter, and most consecutive goals by one player. Two of Greer’s goals came on the power play and he scored another on a penalty shot. Greer rounded out his efforts by scoring on a breakaway in the fourth quarter and picked up two assists to finish with nine points. The Rush also set a franchise record by scoring 14 goals in the first half.
Meanwhile, 2015 NLL Rookie of the Year Ben McIntosh broke out of his early-season struggles with a hat trick, while Robert Church totaled eight points (3 goals, 5 assists), Mark Matthews racked up seven points (2 goals, 5 assists), and Riley Loewen recorded five assists.
Game 5: Defensive duo goes way of the Mammoth
Goalie Dillon Ward made 47 saves and Colorado used a third-quarter surge to beat the Rush 9-7 in Denver.
The victory for the Mammoth was just their second in the past nine regular-season games against the Rush. Colorado scored five goals in the third quarter to take a lead that Saskatchewan couldn’t overcome.
Game 6: Early explosion paces Rush to key win over Knighthawks
Saskatchewan returned home and fired in seven goals in the first quarter on their way to an 11-8 win over Rochester.
The Rush chased reigning NLL Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc to the bench with a four-goal barrage including two from Ben McIntosh. After Zack Greer beat backup netminder Angus Goodleaf, Vinc went back between the pipes and was promptly burned by a power-play goal from Robert Church.
One of the most bizarre goals of the season helped the Rush put the result in the bank. Rush captain Chris Corbeil scored his second goal of the game with only nine seconds left. Rochester had pulled Vinc for an extra-attacker but when Saskatchewan recovered the ball, the K-Hawks goalie was too quick getting back on the floor and his team was called for too many men. Because the goaltender was the culprit on the infraction, it resulted in an automatic goal for the Rush.
Game 7: Bandits steal OT victory in Saskatchewan
Mitch Jones scored the overtime winner as Buffalo beat the Rush 19-18 in a game that Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan would later describe as “fun for the fans, ugly for the coaches.”
The loss spoiled nine-point games by the Rush’s Robert Church (5 goals, 4 assists) and Mark Matthews (2 goals, 7 assists) along with a strong comeback by Saskatchewan which trailed 16-13 in the fourth quarter. Church tied the game with 35 seconds left and then had a chance to win it in regulation but he misfired on a penalty shot. One of Church’s goal was a particularly sharp effort as he scored a shorthanded tally when he collected the ball behind the Buffalo net, dove out and through the crease, and tucked a shot inside the near post past goalie Davide DiRuscio.
Ben McIntosh added to the Rush totals with (4 goals, 2 assists) finished with six points (4 goals, 2 assists), while rookie Dan Taylor recorded his first two NLL goals.
Game 8: Rush come back to beat Roughnecks in OT
Trailing throughout the game and by as many as six goals, the Rush completed a massive comeback with a 12-11 overtime win in Calgary less than 24 hours after losing to Buffalo in Saskatoon.
Zack Greer scored the winner at 5:04 of overtime to register the Rush’s third win of the season over their Prairie rivals. Robert Church and Curtis Knight each scored a hat trick but it was a goal by unheralded John Lafontaine that was perhaps the biggest of the game for the Rush. With Saskatchewan down three, Lafontaine finished off a terrific transition effort that was started when defender Ryan Dilks hustled back to swat the ball free from a Calgary forward.
Rush goalie Aaron Bold overcame some early struggles to post 33 saves, 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Game 9: Rush stave off potent Swarm in style
The Rush’s stone-wall defence proved to be too much for the high-flying Georgia offence. In fact, it was Saskatchewan’s own offence that shone as the Rush scored eight goals in the first half and Mark Matthews finished with eight points in a 14-8 Rush win.
Saskatchewan’s stellar defence also came up in killing seven of eight Swarm power plays while adding shorthanded goals from Ryan Dilks and John Lafontaine.
Two of Matthews’ goals came 56 seconds apart in the second quarter. Zack Greer notched a hat trick to bolster the Rush attack.
Game 10: Rush blast Stealth with record-setting offensive outburst
For the first time in team history, the Rush scored 20-plus goals in a game, and for the second time this season they scored 14 goals in the first half on their way to a 24-16 posting of the Stealth in Vancouver.
Zack Greer notched a career-high 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) and Mark Matthews collected 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) for the Rush who would rack up seven straight goals in the fourth quarter including his fifth of the night for Curtis Knight which got Saskatchewan to 20 goals in a game for the first time. The fourth opened with the Rush netting three goals in just 19 seconds – another team record – including both of Matthews’ goals and Jeremy Thompson’s second of the game. Not wanting to be left out, Ben McIntosh scored four goals including a beauty with a nifty dip-and-dunk in front of the net.
Saskatchewan backup goalie Tyler Carlson picked up just his second win with the Rush as he allowed only three goals in over 24 minutes of relief.
The Rush’s 24 goals were the first time an NLL team had scored 23+ goals in a game since 2009. The 24 goals the two teams combined for in the first half was the most in an NLL game since 2007.
Game 11: Rush rattle Rock in first game of Cup rematch weekend
The two teams who clashed over the 2015 Champion’s Cup opened a home-and-home series in Toronto with the Rush getting the game-winning goal from Curtis Knight with 26 seconds left to beat the Rock 11-9.
Saskatchewan were successful on a coach’s challenge in the third which gave them an 8-5 lead.
Saskatchewan gained possession off the ensuing faceoff, and after a timeout, Thompson ragged the ball into the Rock end and fired it into an empty net with 10 seconds to go. Right off a faceoff, Jeremy Thompson came down the floor and put a hot shot over Rose’s shoulder. Initially the referees believed the ball had gone off the crossbar, but after Rush head coach Derek Keenan threw his challenge flag, the video replay showed the ball had hit the back of the net before coming out. Knight (2 goals, 3 assists) and Robert Church (5 assists) led the Rush with five-point outings while goalie Aaron Bold finished with 29 saves, and was particularly sharp in the fourth quarter making a pair of key saves in the late stages.
Game 12: Rush win fifth straight with sweep of Rock
The Rush used an eight-goal run to push them to a 13-8 victory against visiting Toronto and pick up their fifth win in a row. With the win, the Rush clinched a spot in the 2016 NLL playoffs.
Saskatchewan’s eight-goal outbreak erased a 6-4 lead for Toronto in the third quarter, and was helped along by back-to-back goals from both Zack Greer and Dan Taylor.
Robert Church (1 goal, 5 assists) and Mark Matthews (2 goals, 4 assists) both racked up a six-point night for the Rush. Saskatchewan goalie Aaron Bold made 31 saves, none better than when he robbed the Rock on a 2-on-0 break in the dying seconds of the third quarter.
Game 13: Rush win sixth straight with third win in a row over Calgary
Before a franchise-record crowd of 14,941, the Rush secured a home playoff date by beating the visiting Roughnecks 11-9. The win also marked the first time in team history that the Rush swept a regular-season series against Calgary.
Special teams were a big difference-maker for the Rush as the power play clicked for five goals and Saskatchewan counted its league-leading 14th shorthanded goal.
Mark Matthews finished with a six-point effort (3 goals, 3 assists) while Robert Church racked up five points (2 goals, 3 assists). Goalie Aaron Bold totaled 36 saves for Saskatchewan with many of his best coming during Rush penalty kills.
Game 14: Black Wolves snap Rush’s winning streak at Mohegan Sun
Playing for the first time at the prestigious casino-resort in Connecticut, the Rush couldn’t hold off a rally as New England scored six goals in the fourth quarter to pull out a 14-13 win and bring an end to Saskatchewan’s six-game winning streak.
The loss spoiled a hot start by the Rush, who jumped out to a 6-1 lead after the first quarter, and nine-point performance from Mark Matthews (4 goals, 5 assists). Saskatchewan’s offence was bolstered by eight points from Robert Church (3 goals, 5 assists) and a six-point effort from Zack Greer (3 goals, 3 assists).
Game 15: Rush crush Colorado to take over first in the West
A critical home-and-home series to settle first place in the West Division launched in Denver, and the visiting Rush blasted the Mammoth 11-5 behind a six-goal outburst in the fourth quarter.
Saskatchewan’s win was the first for a visiting team in Colorado this season, and the five goals were the second-fewest allowed in a game by the Rush in team history.
Two of the Rush’s six goals in the fourth quarter came only nine seconds apart from Robert Church and Kyle Rubisch. Ben McIntosh completed a four-goal outing in the fourth and defenceman Ryan Dilks wrapped up the barrage with a goal on a breakaway. After a rough outing the previous week in New England, Rush goalie Aaron Bold turned in his best performance of the season with 42 saves including 11 in the fourth quarter.
Game 16: Rush sew up first in West before another record crowd
SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon was jam-packed with 15,026 fans who got to the Rush beat Colorado 11-8 to clinch first place in the West Division and a bye into the West Final. The victory completed a weekend home-and-home series sweep of the Mammoth.
With the game tied 6-6 early in the third quarter, the Rush broke things in their favor as they racked up a five-goal outburst in less than five minutes. McIntosh completed his hat-trick during the run, and just 37 seconds after that, Curtis Knight scored. Only 32 seconds later, Zack Greer made it 10-6 and then 23 seconds after that, Knight registered his hat-trick goal.
Not only did those goals come in quick fashion, the Rush also set a team record for fastest two goals when Knight and Jeremy Thompson combined to score a pair in a mere five seconds.
Saskatchewan goaltender Aaron Bold turned in his second straight standout performance as he finished with 36 saves.
Game 17: Stealth shoot down Rush for second time
Saskatchewan went 5-for-8 on the power play and got five goals from Mark Matthews, but it wasn’t enough as the Rush fell 14-12 to the Stealth in Vancouver.
The Rush nearly caught up after falling behind when Matthews scored his fifth of the game but Vancouver answered 29 seconds later to maintain control of the game.
Game 18: Rush end regular season on high note in Rochester
Saskatchewan completed the regular season with a 13-9 over the Knighthawks as Mark Matthews reached the 40-goal plateau and racked up seven points.
Zack Greer hit the 40-goal mark as well and went beyond as he notched four goals to reach a team-leading 42 for the season. Early in the fourth quarter, Greer pocketed back-to-back goals for the second time in the game.
Goaltender Aaron Bold went the distance for Saskatchewan and picked up his league-leading 12th win behind 35 saves.
West Final Game 1: Saskatchewan slaps Calgary inside the Saddledome
The defending league champions opened the playoffs by whipping the Calgary Roughnecks 16-10 in Game 1 of the West Final.
Saskatchewan scored eight goals in the fourth quarter including a sensational goal in transition when goalie Aaron Bold made a save and defenseman Nik Bilic took off with the rebound to score his second brilliant individual effort goal of the game. Ben McIntosh pushed the lead out further as he potted his fourth of the game. The Rush added two goals into an empty net during a penalty-filled final few moments.
Rush captain Chris Corbeil and leading scorer Mark Matthews both finished with five points (2 goals, 3 assists) while Bold totaled 34 saves.
West Final Game 2: Fourth-quarter push paces Rush to West win
The Rush finished off the Calgary Roughnecks with a 12-9 victory, ending the West Division Final and earning a shot at claiming their second Champion’s Cup title.
The win came before a crowd of 15,192 – the largest turnout in Rush franchise history and a record for a sporting event inside SaskTel Centre.
A four-goal run put the Rush over the top in the fourth quarter. Zack Greer’s goal, set up by some gritty work in the corner by Ben McIntosh, made it 9-6, and Mark Matthews then whipped a shot home just eight seconds later. Greer wrapped up the scoring with his fourth goal of the night – three coming in the final quarter.
Matthews topped the Rush scoring with seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) with Greer totaling six points (4 goals, 2 assists). Rush goalie Aaron Bold finished with 39 saves.
Cup Final Game 1: Late surge, big saves lift Saskatchewan over Buffalo
The Rush pulled away late in a game that was a see-saw affair throughout and earned an 11-9 win to steal the opening game of the Champion’s Cup best-of-three series against the Buffalo Bandits. The Bandits and Rush both finished with 13-5 regular-season records to win their respective divisions, but Buffalo earned home-turf advantage thanks to their overtime win Saskatchewan back in February.
The Rush swiped the advantage from the Bandits when Ben McIntosh neatly tucked a shot behind Buffalo goalie Anthony Cosmo to put the Rush up 10-9 with just over four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Zack Greer scored just 50 seconds later to ice it. Earlier in the game, Greer turned playmaker when he set McIntosh at the edge of the crease and he scored a sensational goal by leaping high and twisting his shot past Cosmo.
Greer, McIntosh, Mark Matthews, and Robert Church each scored twice with Church and Knight both collecting three assists. Saskatchewan netminder Aaron Bold continued his strong playoff play as he stopped all 14 shots he faced in the first quarter and then turned aside 13 shots in the fourth quarter to finish with 44 in total.
Cup Final Game 2: Rush clinch second Cup title in dramatic fashion
Jeff Cornwall’s goal with just 12 seconds left in regulation time lifted Saskatchewan to an 11-10 and the opportunity to lift the Champion’s Cup for the second year in a row. The Rush won the NLL title with a two-game sweep of the Cup Final over the Buffalo Bandits.
The Rush celebrated the Cup win before another massive crowd at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon as 15,182 jammed into the arena. Cornwall set the crowd into a frenzy when he grabbed a long rebound, used his speed to go in all alone on a breakaway and beat Bandits goalie Anthony Cosmo with a perfectly placed shot.
Rush goalie, Aaron Bold was named the Champion’s Cup MVP after making 47 saves in Game 2 to go with the 44 made in the series opener. Two of Bold’s best saves of the playoffs came late in Game 2 as he robbed league-leading scorer Dhane Smith with just over a minute to go and the score tied 10-10, and then turned aside Ryan Benesch as the clock expired.
In Game 2, the Rush got two goals each from Zack Greer, Robert Church, Mark Matthews, Ben McIntosh, and Curtis Knight. Both of Church’s goals came back-to-back 56 seconds apart, while Matthews’ first of the night came just over a minute into the game and was the result of a successful coach’s challenge video replay. Matthews dove into the crease and tucked a shot under the crossbar but the play was initially ruled no goal for a crease infraction. The replay clearly showed Matthews’ timing for on the mark.