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Sask Rush thrill Moose Jaw fans with back-and-forth battle against Roughnecks

Rush tie game late in fourth quarter, but two Calgary goals in final four minutes lead to 14-12 Saskatchewan loss at Moose Jaw Events Centre

Back when the National Lacrosse League exhibition game between the Saskatchewan Rush and Calgary Roughnecks was first announced for the Moose Jaw Events Centre, the immediate sense was that fans were in for one heck of a show.

And that’s exactly what happened.

With more than 4,500 fans in the building, the two teams put on a back-and-forth battle featuring the kind of intensity that wouldn’t be out of place in a high-stakes regular season game. 

And while the Roughnecks would score a pair of goals in the final four minutes to secure a 14-12 victory, everyone in the building -- from the fans to the players and coaches -- marvelled at what had just gone down.

“You don’t have a lot of time in the pre-season, this was our last opportunity before it gets going next weekend, so we treated it like a real game and they did the same,” said Rush captain Ryan Keenan, who had a goal in the contest. “The energy was fantastic and it was great to have the crowd into it, so we don’t like the loss but we’re happy with the game we played.”

Fans didn’t have to wait long to see a goal, as Calgary’s Eli Salama got things going only 15 seconds in. The Roughnecks would take a 5-3 lead out of the quarter and have a 9-6 edge at the half before settling in for a barnburner final 30 minutes.

Calgary staked themselves to a 10-7 lead 9:57 into the third frame, but goals from Mike Messenger and Keegan Bell got them to within one heading into the final quarter.

There, Robert Church tied the game 1:03 in, followed by Calgary’s Tyler Pace and Josh Currier scoring goals a minute apart to regain the two-goal edge.

Sure enough, the Rush had another comeback in them, as Church scored with 9:39 remaining and Patrick Dodds sent an already amped crowd into hysterics with the tying goal at 5:46.

That would be the last good news for Saskatchewan, though, as Pace and Thomas Vela scored with 3:40 and 3:17 remaining to secure the win.

Seeing his team show all sorts of resiliency was a positive for Rush head coach Jimmy Quinlan despite the loss.

“That was the challenge before the game,” he said of his team’s never-give-up attitude. “There were going to be moments when things didn’t go your way and your character is revealed in those tough moments. We wanted to really stem their runs to two goals, and we held them for the most part.

“Then we got ourselves back into the game late in the fourth and kind of had a lapse for a minute and it cost us. It was a pretty good game, but we don’t want to get used to the feeling of losing.”

Church capped his night with three goals and five points, while Dodds, Clark Walter and Mike Messenger scored a pair each. Mike Triolo had their other marker.

The contest had a bit of extra meaning for Rush goaltender Laine Hruska, who grew up in Warman and had faced the Moose Jaw Mustangs in the very same building in the past. Having a chance to play in southern Saskatchewan was a major positive in his eyes as the Rush continue to grow their brand in the province.

“It was awesome, we’re based in Saskatoon so we have that area, so to be able to open up the game and the team to a completely different place in the province is awesome,” he said. “It was packed in here, and yeah, it’s a little bit of a smaller arena, but they were cheering loud and it was echoing and everything. It was a crazy atmosphere and great to be a part of.”

The Rush will now turn their eye to the regular season, with their season opener on Friday, Dec. 1 in Halifax. You can check out the score from that game and follow the Rush all season long at

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