The Rush have a whole lot at stake when they meet the Calgary Roughnecks on the Crystal Glass Field at Rexall Place. If the Rush come away with a victory against their arch-rival, they will clinch the No. 1 overall seed heading into the NLL playoffs and guarantee themselves home-field advantage throughout their playoff run. That would in turn give the Rush and their loyal fans the first home playoff date in franchise history as the Rush march towards a second straight NLL West Division title and a trip to the 2013 Champion’s Cup final.
The Rush can make it all happen with a win in front of their fans in the regular-season finale, but in a sense this matchup with the Roughnecks has all the emotion and attitude of a playoff game.
“This is obviously an important game for our team and who better to play it against then Calgary,” said Rush GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan.
“This season we have played some incredibly entertaining games against them and I anticipate this being much the same. NLL playoffs are one-game knockouts so this is great preparation for playoffs with so much still at stake in this one game.”
The Rush have had the better of the Roughnecks in playoff action, knocking the defending NLL champions out in the West Semifinal in 2010, and then whipping the heavily-favored Roughnecks again in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs.
Calgary, though, has run away with regular-season play since the Rush entered the league. The Roughnecks went 10-3 against the Rush through Edmonton’s first four seasons in the NLL, and then the Roughnecks rattled off 12 consecutive wins beginning in the 2010 campaign. But finally the Rush exacted some measure of revenge earlier this season.
After losing the first two games in this year’s Battle of Alberta series, the Rush rebounded to hand the Roughnecks an 18-13 setback in their most recent clash back on March 2. That win propelled the Rush to a five-game road winning streak and set them up for this huge clash against the Roughnecks.
“Calgary has had the best of us in regular-season play the last few, but we are hungry to show them that the times are a-changing in the Battle of Alberta,” said Rush veteran forward Ryan Ward, who set a team record for points in a regular-season game with 10 (2 goals, 8 assists) in the win over Calgary.
The 18-goal output also equaled Edmonton’s team record for most goals in a single game.
“Saturday’s game will be a playoff type game as both teams want to have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs,” added Ward, who is Edmonton’s leading scorer this season with 70 points.
Ward, who led the entire NLL in playoff scoring last season, can break his own Rush single-season scoring record of 74 points on Saturday, has already broken team records in 2013 for most assists in a season (currently at 50), and most power-play assists in a season (now at 16).
The Rush picked up a critical win last Sunday afternoon, knocking off the Rochester Knighthawks 14-10 at Rexall Place. That win moved the Rush into first place in the West Division, one game up on Calgary and Washington, and two games ahead of Minnesota.
If Calgary defeats Edmonton, and Washington beats Philadelphia, a three-way tie for first in the West between the Rush, Roughnecks and Stealth would leave Edmonton at 3-4 in head-to-head matchups and the Rush would land third in the West standings.