Experienced Rush looking forward to next NLL Cup run

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Colorado Mammoth at Saskatchewan Rush

There is little NLL Playoff history between these two franchises, yet they are still very familiar with each other. Over the years, these teams have met 43 times in the regular season. The Rush have the upper-hand in that series winning 26 of those games including the last five clashes.

The last (and only) times the Rush and Mammoth have played each other in the NLL Playoffs was in 2017. Facing off in the West Division Finals, the Rush won the first two games of that best-of-three series to go on to represent the division in the NLL Cup - they would eventually lose to the Georgia Swarm.

The familiarity shared by the two clubs will create an interesting chess match between the great coaching minds of Pat Coyle and Derek Keenan. However, the familiarity - or lack thereof - in each locker room could play a significant role in this win-or-go-home match.

During their dominant run over the last several years, the Rush have maintained many core pieces of their 2015 NLL Champion’s Cup-winning roster. Brett Mydske, Kyle Rubisch, Mark Matthews, Chris Corbeil, Matthew Dinsdale, Jeremy Thompson and Ben McIntosh have been with the club during each of their deep playoff runs in that span.

While for the Mammoth, the majority of their roster has never been to a Champion’s Cup/NLL Cup and three of their primary contributors in 2019 (Ryan Lee, Kyle Killen and Jeff Wittig) have never played in an NLL Playoff game. The mid-season acquisitions of Cory Vitarelli and Ian Llord from the Rochester Knighthawks will be a welcomed playoff-tested presence on the floor - both players were with the Knighthawks during their 2013 & 2014 Champion’s Cup winning seasons.

The goaltending battle should also be intriguing. The Mammoth’s Dillon Ward and the Rush’s Evan Kirk have won NLL Goaltender of the year and are both respected as a couple of the best goalies in the NLL over the last five years. It will be interesting to see how Kirk fairs seeing that he was sidelined for over a month in March and April with a lower-body injury. He has returned to the lineup with a purpose, though. Kirk has allowed less than ten goals in his last two appearances including eight goals allowed versus these Mammoth last week.

It’s always tough to play inside the Sasktel Centre in Saskatoon because of the deafening cheers from some of the most passionate fans in the NLL, but the Mammoth will likely be looking to redeem themselves from their five-game losing streak against their rivals. It’s hard to ever bet against the Rush who are 8-1 on their home floor since the start of the 2015 NLL Playoffs.

Adam Levi