Saturday, 22 April 2017

Rush delivers wins record to coach, first place to fans

Ryan Keenan celebrates his goal with Robert Church (#17).
    Derek Keenan was the man of the hour on dads’ night for the Saskatchewan Rush.
    Before Saturday night’s National Lacrosse League regular season game at the SaskTel Centre, Keenan, who is the Rush’s veteran head coach and general manager, escorted son and Rush rookie forward, Ryan, on to the floor during pre-game festivities. The Rush had all their players introduced with their fathers and walk on to the SaskTel Centre floor to pay tribute to their dads in the club’s final regular season home game of 2017.
    After the festivities wrapped up, the Rush turned a 7-7 draw into a convincing 15-10 victory over the visiting Toronto Rock. The win moved the elder Keenan into top spot in NLL career coaching victories with 122. 
    The 51-year-old Oshawa, Ont., product passed Darris Kilgour, who piled up 121 victories guiding the Buffalo Bandits as head coach from 2003 to 2013.
    The Rush improved to 11-5, and with the aid of a Vancouver Stealth 13-7 home victory over the Colorado Mammoth, Saskatchewan clinched first place in the NLL’s West Division.
Rush HC and GM Derek Keenan holds court during a media scrum.
    The Rush bench boss said the important thing was his club locked up first place in the West Division before reflecting on his wins record.
    “It was a nice milestone,” said Keenan, whose Rush existed in Edmonton before moving to Saskatoon for the 2016 season. “We’ve won a lot of games the last four or five years.
    “Certainly, the credit goes to the players and my assistant coaches and the organization as a whole. You don’t get to this milestone without having around you, and I have a whole bunch of them.”
    Son Ryan chipped in a goal and a pair of assists in the Rush victory before a raucous sellout crowd of 15,045 at the SaskTel Centre. Derek admitted it was cool to get the wins record on the Rush’s dads’ night.
    “It was kind of weird that I had to go out on the floor before the game,” said Keenan with a laugh. “There was some kind of strange quirky things this weekend that we kind of worked through. It was fun.”
Robert Church had two goals and five assists for the Rush.
    Saturday’s encounter with the Rock had some momentum swings early. The Rush scored two early goals to go ahead 2-0, but Toronto answered back with four straight tallies to vault to a 4-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.
    After the teams entered halftime tied 7-7, the Rush surged ahead 12-7 with five unanswered goals in the third quarter. They cruised to victory from there.
    “It was unbelievable,” said Keenan of the third quarter. “I think the biggest thing about it was we’ve done OK in third quarters, but we haven’t scored a lot.
    “We kept teams to low numbers in third quarters, but I think our offence really got going. Defensively, I think they ran out of gas a little bit. They were really pushing the transition game the first half.
    “I think they ran out of gas a little bit, so we were able to get to run our offence. I thought defensively we smothered them for most of the night.”
    Star forward Mark Matthews powered the Rush with four goals and three assists. Robert Church piled up two goals and five assists for the hosts. Ben McIntosh, Matt Hossack and Adam Jones all had two-goal nights for Saskatchewan, while Dan Taylor and Curtis Knight added singles.
Mark Matthews (#42) had four goals and three assists for the Rush.
    Brett Hickey led the Rock with four goals. Tom Schreiber and Dan Lintner both had two-goal nights for Toronto, while Jesse Gamble and Reid Reinholdt had singles.
    Tyler Carlson turned away 40 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Rush. Nick Rose turned away 34-of-49 shots to start and take the loss in goal for the Rock (8-9). Brandon Miller stopped the only shot he faced in a short relief appearance for Toronto.
    Carlson didn’t know he was going to get a rare start in goal in place of Rush star goalie Aaron Bold. Keenan informed Carlson of the decision on game day.
    “It means a lot especially coming from Derek (Keenan),” said Carlson. “He has so much confidence in Boldy (Aaron Bold). We all have confidence in Boldy.
    “I was there to step in. It is an amazing honour to be able to be in there with those guys.”
The Brampton, Ont., product was pumped to help Keenan get the NLL’s career wins record.
The Rush salute the SaskTel Centre fans after their win on Saturday.
    “Keenan is just a classy guy,” said Carlson. “You are not going to find a coach like that.
    “He is our father figure in there when we come here. It is nice to have our fathers in the stands, but Keenan, he is just an amazing coach, and he is an amazing human being too.”
    The Rush return to action on Friday, when they travel to Denver, Colorado, to face the Colorado Mammoth.

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