The Edmonton Rush finally dumped a demon when they ended a 12-game regular-season slump against the Calgary Roughnecks three weeks ago.
Now the time has come to toss another monkey off their backs.
Since coming into the National Lacrosse League in 2006, the Rush have yet to win a game at the Air Canada Centre, the home turf of the perennially powerful Toronto Rock. But on Sunday afternoon, the Rush have another crack at getting that elusive victory, and with it would come the opportunity to move a step closer to qualifying for the Champion’s Cup playoffs.
It wasn’t easy getting the curse of the Roughnecks to fade away, and ridding themselves of the next burden will be just as challenging as the Rush face a Rock team who lead the NLL with eight wins and boast the league’s most-potent offense.
“Going into Toronto since I’ve been in Edmonton, we’ve had opportunities there and we just haven’t played a complete game,” noted Rush GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan.
“It’s usually been the second quarters that have really hurt us there. We just need to make sure we’re taking care of business for the entire game in order to have an opportunity.”
The Rush have hardly come close to winning in Toronto, though last year’s 12-8 loss was at least a respectable outcome. On treks into Rock territory, Edmonton has lost by six goals twice, seven once, and the worst – a nine-goal thumping in a 16-7 setback in 2010.
But the Rush have only to look back upon their woes against Calgary and how they finally put it all together and roughed up the Roughnecks 18-13 back on March 2. After several serious beatdowns at the Saddledome, the Rush handed one back to the Roughnecks, who were already feeling the sting of consecutive home-floor playoff ousters courtesy of their provincial rivals in 2010 and 2012.
“We just really believed in ourselves that we could do it,” reflected Keenan in comparing his team’s skids against Roughnecks and Rock. “We’ve been close enough times (in Calgary) and were playing well going into those games for the most part and we just believed we could do it as a group.
“And we played extremely hard for 60 minutes and executed our game plan extremely well.”
This weekend’s doubleheader, which kicks off Saturday night in Buffalo against the Bandits, concludes the road odyssey of the Rush for the 2013 regular season. Edmonton is 5-1 away from home so far this season, and their current five-game excursion has already produced wins in Calgary, Minnesota, and Rochester. While they’ve missed the comforts of home, the road warrior mentality has been a key development for the Rush as they close in on the last drive towards the playoffs.
“Cohesiveness has been a big part of it,” said Rush goalie Aaron Bold, needs just two wins over the final five games to equal the franchise’s season-high for victories by a netminder.
“We added a lot of young guys and we have a solid core on offense. The veterans have picked up the momentum and really carried the rookies. Plus (rookies) Curtis Knight and Mark Matthews have been phenomenal so far, and the new guys like Jarrett Davis have done very well.
“We’re really feeding off each other – from me to the defense to the forwards – and we’re rolling all together which is nice to see.”