Still in it: Saskatchewan Rush sink San Diego Seals, stay alive in NLL playoff hunt

Steve Hiscock/Saskatchewan Rush Saskatchewan Rush forward Zach Manns celebrates one of his five goals Saturday night in a 13-8 win over the San Diego Seals at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.

Darren Zary

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Saskatchewan Rush’s still in it.

Saskatchewan improved its record to 8-9 and kept its National Lacrosse League playoff hopes alive with a 13-8 win over the second-place San Diego Seals on Saturday night at SaskTel Centre.

With a playoff spot on the line, the Rush has one game remaining in the regular season next Saturday against the first-place Toronto Rock, once again on home turf.

“We knew the situation,” said Rush defender Keegan Bell. “We needed a win really bad and we were playing desperate lacrosse out there and it paid off. We battled as a team, made sure we did everything we possibly could to get the win and the result came out good.”

Zach Manns led the Rush attack with five goals and two assists as Saskatchewan rallied for nine unanswered goals after falling behind 2-zip to start the game.

Finally, the Rush fell behind yet still managed to win.

“We had this crazy record coming in where if we don’t score first, we don’t win — I think we were honestly 0-and-7 if we don’t score first and we didn’t even know that, but there was an article this week,” noted Rush co-head coach and general manager Derek Keenan.

“But when we got down 2-nothing, we weren’t dictating on defence — which is what we talked about. We kind of played a little timid against them and maybe in awe a little bit because we’re young guys, especially our back end is pretty young. Then we said, ‘hey, we want to set the pace here; we want to set the tempo; we want them to play fast’ and we did.

“The result was there, and we got some transition goals out of it and, just overall, I thought we did a really good job defensively, and being physical and putting pressure on them rather than the other way around.”

Clark Walter and Ryan Keenan each tallied twice for the Rush, which got singles from Mike Triolo, Jake Boudreau, Jerrett Smith and Bell.

Patrick Dodds and Robert Church each recorded three assists.

Boudreau’s goal was a short-handed effort while Saskatchewan was killing a 5-on-3 San Diego power play.

“That was huge,” admitted Keenan. “The shorty was Boudreau making a play, which he does every night many times over. And let’s be honest, it’s goaltending. When it’s a 5-on-3, they’re going to get a good look every time, two or three or four of them, and Frankie (Frank Scigliano) was great. He stood up. Those are big moments.”

Scigliano made 40 saves for the Rush, which outshot the Seals 49-48.

“It was a big win — Frankie was absolutely unbelievable,” said Bell. “It was good for him to get the win against his old team. We all battled.

“Our penalty kill did a great job all night. That two-man kill was huge.”

Jacob Dunbar had two goals and two assists for the Seals. Austin Staats had a goal and four assists for a five-point game, while Wesley Berg had a goal and three assists.

Trevor Baptiste, Chris Wardle, Tre Leclaire and Dane Dobbie each scored once for the Seals.

The Rush were leading 12-5 when Nathaniel Kozevnikov got assessed a questionable five-minute major for a cross-check on San Diego’s Baptiste early in the fourth.

The Seals responded with three power play goals — including one by Baptiste — during the five-minute advantage to cut Saskatchewan’s lead to 12-8.

The win puts Saskatchewan back into the playoff picture, leaving the Rush fighting for a spot along with the Panther City Lacrosse Club, New York Riptide and Vancouver Warriors. The Calgary Roughnecks lost on Saturday to fall to 7-and-10.

“We still are (in it) and that was obviously the objective,” said Keenan.

“I thought we played desperate again, like we did last week, and we got the result that we wanted and the guys just played for each other. They’ve been doing that now for a while. The bottom line is we’re a good young team now and we’ve probably lost two or three or even four games from being a young team but now we’re starting to grow and you can see the results. They’re going to start coming too and it’s really nice to see.”