The Edmonton Rush will look to put an end to a 12-game regular-season losing skid against the arch-rival Calgary Roughnecks when the provincial foes hook up Saturday night in the National Lacrosse League’s version of the Battle of Alberta.
Edmonton has lost twice this season to Calgary, and have not beaten the Roughnecks in regular-season play since the 2010 campaign. Tonight’s game marks the third of four meetings between Edmonton and Calgary during the 2013 regular season. The Rush will host this season’s final chapter on April 20.
Overall, the Rush have won three of their last four games, and are coming off a home-and-home weekend series split against the Minnesota Swarm. In last Friday’s opener, the Swarm outscored the Rush 7-2 in the second half to take a 13-8 decision, but the Rush returned the favor on the Swarm’s home floor Sunday afternoon, jumping out to a commanding 10-1 lead after three quarters before hanging on for a 14-9 verdict.
Sunday’s win pushed the Rush into third place in the NLL’s West Division, one game in back of both Calgary and Washington, and one-half game ahead of Minnesota. Calgary fell into a tie for first with Washington after falling 16-14 to the Stealth in Everett.
Calgary continued its run of success against the Rush taking victories in back-to-back weekends in February. The Roughnecks captured an 18-15 win at Rexall Place on Feb. 2, and then slipped past the Rush 9-8 on Feb. 9 at the Saddledome. A tight game throughout, the Roughnecks needed a huge fourth-quarter performance from Curtis Dickson to pull out the win. Dickson scored three of his four goals in the final stanza including the game-winner 39 seconds remaining.
Jarrett Davis led the Rush against Calgary, notching a hat trick which included a pair of power-play markers. Mark Matthews added a pair of goals, both coming in the fourth quarter, with singles going to Curtis Knight, Ryan Dilks, and Ryan Ward, who also chipped in three assists.
In the first meeting of the year between the teams, both teams fired up their offense in the opening half, racking up 20 goals and finishing up the first half tied 10-10. But the Roughnecks got the better of the Rush in the second half, outscoring Edmonton 8-5, sparked by a five-goal outburst that put them out in front to stay at 16-12.
Ryan Ward led the Rush attack with a hat trick plus four assists for a seven-point game. Jeremy Thompson potted three goals, with Zack Greer, Mark Matthews, and Corey Small each scoring twice. Singles went to Jarrett Davis, John Lafontaine, and Alex Turner.
The Roughnecks, who have won back-to-back season series 4-0 in both 2011 and 2012, have taken 15 of the last 16 regular-season matchups against the Rush and hold an overall mark of 22-4 regular-season record against Edmonton. However, the Rush are 2-0 against the Roughnecks in playoff action with both wins coming at the Saddledome. After eliminating the Roughnecks in the 2010 West Division semifinal, the Rush did it again last season, bouncing the favored Roughnecks 19-11 en route to claiming the club’s first West Division title and reaching the Champion’s Cup final.
Last Friday’s loss to Minnesota ended the Rush’s modest two-game winning streak. The Swarm, which outscored the Rush 7-2 in the second half, were the beneficiaries of standout performances from two former Edmonton players as Ryan Benesch connected for nine points and Callum Crawford collected seven. Corey Small led the Rush with a hat trick and two assists, with singles going to Jarrett Davis, Mark Matthews, Ryan Ward, Alex Turner, and Cory Conway, who also chipped in four assists.
In the return matchup Sunday, the Rush dominated for the opening three quarters and held a 6-0 lead at the half and had a nine-goal cushion heading into the final frame before the Swarm responded with six unanswered goals during a stretch in the fourth.
Zack Greer anchored the Rush attack with a hat trick, including one goal on the power play, to go with two assists. Corey Small also notched a hat trick for the second straight game, and Curtis Knight supplied two goals and two assists. The other Rush goals went to Mark Matthews, Jeremy Thompson, Cory Conway, John Lafontaine, Jarrett Toll, and Chris Corbeil.
Rush rookie sensation Mark Matthews leads the NLL with 25 goals and is tops on the team with 42 points, one up on Ryan Ward. Ward leads the Rush with 27 assists, while Corey Small is second in goals (16) and assists (23) and third in points (39).
Roughnecks star forward Shawn Evans is the NLL leader in points with 59 and assists with 39.