Edmonton, AB-- With a dominating weekend sweep of games in Buffalo and Toronto, the Edmonton Rush have clinched a spot in the National Lacrosse League playoffs and will be amongst the challengers for the 2013 Champion's Cup title.
The Rush, who are the defending NLL West Division champs, topped Buffalo 14-7 on Saturday night behind a four-goal, three-assist effort from Corey Small. On Sunday afternoon, the Rush moved north to Toronto and for the first time in club history, defeated the Rock at the Air Canada Centre with a 17-12 decision as Zack Greer and Mark Matthews both counted hat tricks. Those two victories, combined with Calgary's overtime win against Colorado, secured a playoff berth for the Rush who now sport an 8-5 record and hold down first place in the NLL's West Division.
This will be the Rush's third trip to the Champion's Cup playoffs. In 2010, the Rush upset the Calgary Roughnecks in the West Semifinal before dropping the West Final in overtime to Washington. Last season, the Rush again shocked the Roughnecks in the West Semifinal and then pounded the Minnesota Swarm in the West Final to reach the NLL championship game where they were defeated by the Rochester Knighthawks.
Following a bye weekend, the Rush round out their 2013 regular-season schedule with a three-game homestand during which they will try to secure the club's first home playoff date in franchise history, as well as shoot for a club record 11-win season. Edmonton hosts Colorado on April 6, and then has a rematch of the 2012 Champion's Cup final against Rochester on April 13. The Rush wrap up the regular season with a fourth installment of the Battle of Alberta against Calgary on April 20.
The weekend wins pushed the Rush to a franchise-high five-game winning streak with all five of the victories coming on the longest road trip in club history. Away from Crystal Glass Field at Rexall Place for over a month, the Rush have beaten division rivals Calgary and Minnesota, and rumbled past East foes Rochester, Buffalo, and Toronto. Those victories have also helped the Rush establish a new team record for road wins in a single season with seven, and Edmonton's victory in Toronto ended a seven-game winless slump for the Rush on the Rock's home turf.
Corey Small's seven-point effort lifted the Rush past the Bandits on Saturday. Rookie Curtis Knight added a hat trick, which included a power-play marker, while Jarrett Davis and Ryan Ward each notched a goal and four assists. Zack Greer, with a pair, Chris Corbeil, with a shorthanded tally, Mark Matthews, and Brett Mydske rounded out Edmonton's scoring while Aaron Bold stood tall with 35 saves.
While the hat tricks by Mark Matthews and Zack Greer propelled the Rush's offensive output against Toronto, Edmonton's transition players were also key to padding the goal total. Kyle Rubisch had two goals and two assists for the Rush, while Brett Mydske, Ryan Dilks, John Lafontaine and Jeremy Thompson all added goals from the transition squad. Corey Small had his second straight big night with two goals and two assists, and Aaron Bold racked up 29 saves for his eighth win of the season, tying him for the team record for wins in a single season by a goaltender.
With six assists over the weekend, Ryan Ward eclipsed his own single-season assist record for the Rush which now stands at 45. Ward, who is currnly fourth in the league in assists this season, is just 10 points behind his own team record for points in a season, while Mark Matthews is tied for first in the NLL with 35 goals and just two off the Rush team record of 37 set by Chris Gill in 2007. Goalie Aaron Bold is now tied for first in the NLL with eight wins and stands second in the league with a 10.51 goals-against average.