SASKATOON -- There wasn't much that didn't work for the Saskatchewan Rush on Saturday night.
The Rush kicked off the 2018 National Lacrosse League championship final with a 16-9 win over the Rochester Knighthawks at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.
Saskatchewan can now clinch their third title in four years when they head to Rochester next Saturday for Game 2 of the NLL Cup Final.
"I thought it was just a complete effort from the goaltending on out,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan.
The Rush played the Knighthawks tight on defence throughout the game; they scored six goals in transition; and their offence swung the momentum of the game back in their favour when necessary.
One of those big momentum swings came in the second quarter and ended up being the turning point in the game. The Knighthawks led 4-3 early in the second quarter, but Robert Church took over for the Rush at that point, scoring three goals in a span of 3:03 to put Saskatchewan in front for good.
After that, Saskatchewan exploded for four goals in 3:39 to start the third quarter and never looked back.
"We felt we had a really good first quarter as an offence -- our defence was incredible all night, but our offence was rolling in the first quarter -- but we weren't burying opportunities, (Matt) Vinc was standing on his head, so we knew that we needed to bury some opportunities in the second and we did that," said Church, who finished the game with a team-high four goals and six points.
The scoring depth really showed up for the Rush in the win with top scorer Mark Matthews being held to just one goal and three points.
Ryan Keenan had a hat trick, while transition Jeff Cornwall scored twice and finished with three points.
Also, Matthew Dinsdale picked up a goal and five points; Ben McIntosh scored twice; and Mike Messenger, Jeremy Thompson and Matt Hossack finished with a goal and two points each.
"We've talked about it a lot, it's on any given night (that someone can come up big)," said Keenan. "Mark is still a major factor out there because he draws so much attention and creates space for other guys. He's a guy to that when things aren't going his way, he'll work to get other guys open, which is something a lot of premier don't do, so he does a good job there and other guys stepped up."
Cornwall has shown during his career that he will come through in big moments for the Rush, like his championship-winning goal two years ago. He contributed in a big way at both ends of the field for the Rush in Saturday’s victory.
"This is the stuff that I live for, I love competing and I love playing against the best possible team that we can," said Cornwall.
"We really executed our game plan, we bought into what we had planned and we worked together. We had a handful of lapses, they have some incredible shooters and whenever we did make mistakes, they capitalized on them, so it's just about trying to minimize those mistakes and work hard as a unit."
Rush goalie Evan Kirk made 35 saves in the win, while Saskatchewan peppered Knighthawks goalie Matt Vinc with 64 shots.
The Rush will now try to build off this win as they head to Rochester for Game 2 of the best-of-three series.
"The pressure is on them, they've got to win to keep the series alive and for us, we've been here before and we want to put them away, we don't want to have a Game 3 back here," said Church.
Game 2 goes this coming Saturday in Rochester. If necessary, Game 3 would be back in Saskatoon on June 9.