The Edmonton Rush will be in search of a franchise-high four-game winning streak as they take on the Buffalo Bandits in the first game of a weekend doubleheader in the National Lacrosse League’s East Division.
Following the matchup in Buffalo, the Rush will round out its season-high five-game road trip and its entire 2013 away-game schedule in a Sunday matinee against the Toronto Rock.
The Rush can clinch a berth in the NLL Champion’s Cup playoffs if they sweep both Buffalo and Toronto this weekend along with a Colorado loss to Calgary on Saturday night. Toronto clinched a spot with its win over Philadelphia.
Edmonton won its third straight game and its fourth consecutive road game with an 11-9 victory over the Rochester Knighthawks last Saturday night in a rematch of the 2012 Champion’s Cup final. The Rush’s regular season ends with three straight games at Rexall Place including a return engagement with the Knighthawks.
With their win over Rochester, the Rush moved into a tie with Calgary for second spot in the West Division, just one-half game behind Washington and with a game in-hand. The Rush and Roughnecks, who will meet in Edmonton in the regular-season finale, both hold a two-game lead over Minnesota and Colorado. Meanwhile, Buffalo lost its third straight game with a 16-13 loss at Colorado, and Toronto maintained a big lead in the East with a 13-8 victory over Philadelphia.
Just as they did in last year’s Champion’s Cup, the Rush dominated the first half against Rochester, this around holding a 5-1 lead after the first quarter. But unlike the NLL final of a year ago, Rochester’s comeback bid fell short. Sniper Zack Greer continued his resurgence, potting four goals for the Rush, while Ryan Ward led the way with six points (2 goals, 4 assists).
Mark Matthews, with a hat trick, and singles by Curtis Knight and Corey Small rounded out Edmonton’s scoring. Aaron Bold picked up his sixth win between the pipes with a 24-save outing.
This will be just the fourth all-time meeting between the Rush and Bandits, but the first encounter between the clubs in Buffalo. In their last matchup, Zack Greer scored three goals and Ryan Ward notched five points in an 11-8 victory during the 2012 campaign.
Former Rush Mike Accursi along with longtime Buffalo stalwart Mark Steenhuis both notched eight points in the Bandits’ 13-8 win in Edmonton back in 2008. In their 2010 home-opener, the Rush got a pair of record-setting performances on their way to an 11-7 victory. In that game, Ryan Ward tied the then-team record for points in a game with eight coming on four goals and four assists. Also in that game former Rush Brodie Merrill set Edmonton’s mark for assists in a game by a transition/defender as he picked up four helpers. Merrill’s total of five points on the night also tied for the team record for points in a game by a transition/defender. Among the other goal-scorers in the game for the Rush were Jimmy Quinlan and Corey Small.
The Rush have yet to win in Toronto since entering the NLL in 2006, and the Rock are 10-3 all-time against the Rush. After splitting their season series with the Rush in 2009, 2010 and 2011, the Rock have since won three straight against Edmonton including a 10-9 verdict in the 2013 season opener back in January.
Toronto captured both meetings last season including a 12-11 verdict in the Rush’s home finale – a loss that ended the Rush’s three-game, home-field winning streak against Toronto, and spoiled the performances of Ryan Ward (hat trick) and Zack Greer (four points). The Rock also earned a 12-8 win over the Rush in Toronto last season, which extended their mark to a perfect 7-0 in home games against the Rush.
Ryan Ward’s six-point game against Rochester gave him 57 points (18 goals, 39 assists) on the season, tops on the Rush scoring chart. Ward is stands fourth in the NLL with 39 assists, Rush rookie sensation Mark Matthews is third in the NLL with 31 goals. Matthews (31 goals, 20 assists) is second on the Rush with 51 points, five up on Corey Small (19 goals, 27 assists). With his sudden turnaround, Zack Greer has moved into fourth in goals for the Rush with 17, while Cory Conway, other second-half resurgent, is third on the team with 23 assists.
Former Rush Shawn Williams leads Buffalo in scoring with 49 points, while Toronto’s Garrett Billings is the league-leader in assists with 50 and is second overall in points with 71.
Record Watch: The Rush record book is in store for a few changes as the team itself and three players are on the move towards new single-season franchise records. The win over Rochester equalled the Rush team mark for road wins in a season with five so a victory over Buffalo or Toronto will set a new franchise high … Ryan Ward is on pace to break two of his own records both set in 2010. Ward needs 17 points over the final five games to eclipse his mark of 74, and he needs only four more assists to break his record of 43 … Mark Matthews is only six goals shy of breaking Chris Gill’s 2007 record of 37 goals in a season … Aaron Bold is just two wins away from Matt Disher’s mark of eight victories by a goaltender in a season set in 2010.
Statistically Speaking: Three of the NLL’s best offenses will be squaring off this weekend. Toronto leads the East with 137 goals scored and Buffalo is second with 122, while Edmonton is third in the league with 140 … The Rush boast one of the NLL’s stingiest defenses having surrendered only 120 goals so far this season – the third-best total in the league. Toronto is at 117 goals-against, second-best in the league, but Buffalo has given up an East Division-worst 138 … Reigning NLL Defender of the Year Kyle Rubisch of the Rush leads the entire NLL with 31 forced turnovers. Rubisch and Jeremy Thompson are also tied for fifth in the NLL with 85 loose balls, while Thompson is fifth in faceoff wins with 111 … The Rush were 2-for-2 on the power play against Rochester on goals by Zack Greer and Mark Matthews, but Rochester went 3-for-3 with the man-advantage … Toronto’s power play is ranked second overall at 59% and is No. 1 at home at a 64% clip. The Rush have the NLL’s fifth-best power play at 47% while Buffalo is last at 41% … Edmonton’s overall penalty killing is last in league at 39% yet jumps to 64% on the road. Toronto’s penalty killing ranks second at 60% while Buffalo overall is tied for fourth at 49% but jumps to a league-best 56% at home … Aaron Bold continues to provide the Rush with standout goaltending. He is third in the league with six wins and fourth in goals-against average at 10.71 … Toronto netminder Nick Rose is out in front of his counterparts with a league-high eight wins and 457 saves, while also standing second in goals-against average at 10.29 … Toronto veteran Colin Doyle is third in the NLL with 46 assists and fifth overall in points with 63 … Future Hall of Fame John Tavares has played in only seven games for Buffalo this season, managing nine goals and 20 assists.
By The Numbers: Edmonton and Toronto are a league-best 5-1 in road games this season. However, Edmonton (1-4), Buffalo (2-4) and Toronto (3-2) are clearly underwhelming home teams … The Rush are 6-2 when leading at halftime and a very impressive 6-0 when leading after three quarters … The Rush are tied with Calgary with a league-high 40 first-quarter goals, and second only to the Roughnecks in goals per game. Calgary is averaging 14.55 goals with Edmonton next at 12.73 … The Rush have outscored their opposition 40-22 in first-quarter play and 73-51 in first halves this season … In Edmonton’s last meeting with Buffalo, defender Jarrett Toll added to the Rush scoring with a shorthanded marker … Shawn Williams, then Edmonton’s leading scorer, had six points in the last game between the Rush and Buffalo. Williams is now one of six former Rush in the Bandits’ lineup (Aaron Wilson, Mark Hominuck, Scott Self, Derek Suddons, and Kurtis Wagar) … This will be Rush transition standout Jeremy Thompson’s first game against his former club. He was traded to Edmonton from Buffalo along with a draft pick for Aaron Wilson in the off-season … 2012 first-round draft picks Mark Matthews and Curtis Knight both notched their first NLL career goals and finished with five points apiece against Toronto in the season opener. All three of Knight’s goals in the game came on the power play and he went on to earn the NLL’s Rookie of the Week honor … The Rush will face a pair of Edmonton-area products this weekend. Buffalo’s Jon Harasym has one goal on the year while fellow Sherwood Park native Blaine Manning, back after an injury-plagued 2012 campaign, has 21 points for Toronto … After a 3-1 start to the year, Buffalo has lost five of its last seven games. Despite their sluggish record, Buffalo is second only to Colorado in average home attendance with 14,876 fans per game.