The Edmonton Rush will try to guarantee themselves the first home playoff date in franchise history with a victory over the Rochester Knighthawks in a Sunday matinee contest.
Edmonton, the defending National Lacrosse League West Division champions, have not hosted a playoff game since entering the league in 2006. The Rush can clinch a home playoff date by beating Rochester, along with getting some help from games on Saturday night as they need Calgary to beat Rochester and for Buffalo to defeat Washington.
The Rush have won three of the five playoff games they’ve participated in including a pair of games en route to the Champion’s Cup final which they lost to the host Knighthawks. A win over the Knighthawks would also complete a season sweep for the Rush over their foes from Rochester, having beaten the K-Hawks 11-9 on their home floor back on March 16. That victory came in the midst of the Rush’s five-game winning streak with all five wins coming on the road. That win streak was snapped last Saturday when the Rush fell 9-7 against the Colorado Mammoth, handing the Rush their fifth home-floor loss of the season.
The loss to Colorado left the Rush in a three-way tie for first in the West Division with Calgary and Washington. The defending Champion’s Cup-holder Knighthawks remain second in the East Division after splitting a pair of games last weekend. Rochester dropped a 10-9 verdict at Toronto, but came back a night later to oust Philadelphia 14-7.
This will be just the fifth all-time meeting between the Rush and Knighthawks, with Edmonton holding a 3-2 edge. In the victory earlier this season, the Rush took control of the game with a 5-1 first-quarter bulge and cruised the rest of the way despite a late comeback bid by Rochester. Zack Greer led the Rush with four goals, while Ryan Ward racked up 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.
Despite less-than-stellar regular season performances, the Rush and K-Hawks clawed their way into the 2012 Champion’s Cup final, and it appeared as though Edmonton was on its way to its first league title in franchise history sporting a 5-1 lead at halftime. But the Knighthawks, playing on their home floor, took over in the second half en route to a 9-6 verdict and their third NLL title. Zack Greer led Edmonton in scoring with two goals.
Both of Edmonton’s previous regular-season wins over Rochester had come in overtime. The Rush played host to the Knighthawks in 2008 for their first-ever meeting and came away with a 10-9 as Jimmy Quinlan led his team with two goals and three assists. The Rush picked up their second straight OT win over the Knighthawks with a 12-11 victory during the 2010 campaign. Edmonton, which potted the game-winner just 20 seconds into overtime, got two-goal games from both Corey Small and Jimmy Quinlan.
Rochester finally topped Edmonton during the 2011 NLL season, picking up a 13-9 home-floor victory behind a four-goal game from ex-Rush sniper Mike Accursi. Corey Small and Brett Mydske each scored twice for Edmonton in the losing cause.
The Rush were stifled offensively by Colorado in their last outing, primarily by Mammoth goaltender Tye Belanger who managed 48 saves, including 16 in the third quarter.
Rookie Curtis Knight notched a pair of goals for the Rush with singles going to Mark Matthews, Ryan Ward, Chris Corbeil, Zack Greer, and Cory Conway.
Ryan Ward leads the Rush in scoring with 64 points, and is currently tied for fifth in the NLL in assists at 45 with Rochester’s Cody Jamieson. Mark Matthews is tops on the Rush and fifth in the league with 36 goals, and second on the team with 62 points. Corey Small is second on the Rush in both goals (25) and assists (34) and third in points with 59. Zack Greer is third on the Rush with 23 goals, and Cory Conway is third in assists with 28.
Record Watch: Mark Matthews needs two goals to set a new club record for most goals in a single season. Chris Gill has the current mark of 37 set in 2006 … After being held to just a single point by Colorado, Ryan Ward requires nine points over the final two games to break his own team single-season record of 74 points set in 2010 … The loss to Colorado killed the Rush’s chances of hitting 11 wins and breaking their franchise record, but they can still equal the current mark of a 10-win season by ending the year with wins over Rochester and Calgary … Chris Corbeil’s shorthanded goal against Colorado gave him the new team record for shorthanded goals in a season with four, eclipsing the old mark held by both Ryan Ward and Randy Daly … Jeremy Thompson’s franchise single-season mark for faceoff wins now stands at 143 … Zack Greer needs one game-winning goal to break the club record of four set by Gavin Prout in 2010 … Ryan Ward needs four power-play assists to break the franchise mark of 15 established by Jimmy Quinlan in 2007.
Statistically Speaking: The Rush-Knighthawks clash could very well come down to a battle between two of the NLL’s best goaltenders. Rochester’s Matt Vinc leads the NLL in goals-against average (9.75) and save-percentage (.813), is second in total saves (549), and is fourth in minutes played (775). Edmonton’s Aaron Bold is tied for second in wins (eight), and is third in both goals-against average (10.39) and minutes played (779) … The Rush are 3-1 on the year against East Division rivals with wins over Rochester, Toronto, and Buffalo … While the Rush are struggling at home with a 1-5 record, the Knighthawks are 3-2 on the road and 2-2 against West Division foes this season … Chris Corbeil is second in the NLL with four shorthanded goals, and the Rush rearguard is tied for first among all NLL defenders with nine total goals … Rush teammates Kyle Rubisch and Jeremy Thompson are tied for fifth in the NLL with 113 loose balls. Rubisch leads the NLL with 38 forced turnovers, while Thompson is fifth in faceoff wins with 143 … Rush defender Brett Mydske is fifth in the NLL with 21 forced turnovers … Rochester’s Jordan MacIntosh is fourth in faceoff wins with 197 … Edmonton’s power play which went 3-for-3 against Colorado is at 47% (28-for-59) on the season, while Rochester’s is slightly better at 48% (24-for-50) … Rochester leads the NLL with a stellar 63% penalty kill (22 goals surrendered in 60 shorthanded situations). Edmonton is last on the penalty kill at 40% (28 goals against in 47 shorthanded situations).
By The Numbers: The Rush are third in the West with 178 goals scored and second in the entire NLL having given up just 148 goals. Rochester have given up a league-low 128 goals, but scored the fewest goals of any team with only 144 … Edmonton’s offensive output is clearly the difference maker in its home and road record. The Rush scored 114 goals in eight road games this season, but have managed only 64 in six home games so far … Mark Matthews leads all NLL rookies with 62 points and 36 goals, and is third with 26 assists. Fellow first-rounder Curtis Knight is fourth in both points (40) and assists (23) and fifth in goals with 17. Knight and Matthews are tied with five power-play goals apiece … Rochester sits fourth in the NLL with 10 shorthanded goals … The Rush have outscored their opposition 53-28 in first quarters this season. They have been outscored 46-42 in fourth-quarter play … The Rush are averaging 52.8 shots per game, the most in the NLL, and they are averaging 41.0 shot allowed per game, also best in the league … Edmonton is averaging 12.71 goals per game, and averaging only 10.57 goals allowed per game. Only Rochester has a better goals-allowed margin at 9.85 … Knighthawks sniper Cody Jamieson is fourth in the NLL with 11 power-play goals.