The Edmonton Rush will begin defense of their National Lacrosse League West Division title as they travel to Washington to meet the Stealth in the opening round of the Champion’s Cup playoffs.
The Rush earned the division crown in 2012 by taking out Calgary and Minnesota in the West before falling to Rochester in the Champion’s Cup final. Edmonton, Washington, and Calgary all ended the 2013 regular season tied for first in the division with 9-7 records, but Calgary moved to the top with the best head-to-head record between the three teams. The Rush fell to third in the division after dropping a heartbreaking 12-11 OT decision to the Roughnecks last Saturday. Had the Rush beat Calgary, they would have earned the No. 1 overall seed throughout the NLL playoffs and hosted a playoff game for the first time in franchise history, but instead Edmonton goes on the road to open the playoffs.
However, the Rush were an impressive 7-1 on the road during the ’13 regular season including an 18-10 win at Washington early on in the season – a game in which Rush rookie sensation Mark Matthews connected for nine points and was rewarded with the NLL’s Rookie of the Week honor. In fact the Rush are 6-2 in their last eight regular-season meetings with the Stealth highlighted by Matthews’ six-goal outburst in a 15-10 for Edmonton in the last encounter between the teams. Matthews, who notched back-to-back goals in the fourth quarter to hit the ‘sock trick’ plateau, earned the NLL’s Offensive Player of the Week award for his that performance coupled with a five-goal outing the next night in Colorado.
In the Rush’s huge road victory, Ryan Ward, with a hat trick, and two goals from both Corey Small and Brett Mydske added to the Rush count in Washington, with singles going to Zack Greer, Curtis Knight, Jarrett Toll, Jeff Cornwall, Chris Corbeil, Jarrett Davis, and Jeremy Thompson
In the home win against the Stealth, Ryan Ward picked up a six-point night behind two goals and four assists while Craig Conway had a breakout effort with a goal and three assists. Zack Greer, with a pair, Chris Corbeil with a shorthanded marker, Jeff Cornwall, Corey Small, and Jarrett Davis rounded out the Rush scoring.
The Stealth’s only victory in the past two regular seasons against the Rush came at Rexall Place earlier in this campaign as Rhys Duch counted four points in a 12-10 Washington win. Corey Small, with a hat trick, Ryan Ward with two, and singles from Alex Turner, Jimmy Quinlan, Mike Burke, Mark Matthews, and Jarrett Davis accounted for the Rush scoring.
The Rush are 9-12 in all-time regular-season meetings against the Washington/San Jose franchise, while the Stealth clutch to the lone playoff victory in the teams’ histories – an overtime thriller that sent Washington to the 2010 Champion’s Cup final.
The Rush are one of the NLL’s hottest teams, entering the playoffs with seven wins in their last 10 games including a five-game road winning streak. But Edmonton lost its chance to host one of the West Semi-Finals by losing to Calgary last Saturday thanks to Shawn Evans’ overtime winner 10 minutes into the extra frame. Corey Small and Alex Turner each scored twice for the Rush to go with singles from Brett Mydske, Curtis Knight, Jarrett Davis, Ryan Ward, Jeremy Thompson, and Zack Greer.
Ryan Ward finished the ’13 regular season as the Rush’s leading scorer, breaking his own single-season franchise record with 75 points, along with setting new club records for assists in a season (54) and power-play assists (16).
Mark Matthews ended the year fifth in the NLL and as the Rush team leader with 38 goals, along with being second on the team with 69 points. Corey Small finished third in team scoring with 64 points, and was second in assists (36) and tied with Zack Greer for second in goals with 28. Matthews and Cory Conway tied for third on the Rush with 31 assists each.
Washington Rhys Duch led the NLL this season with 45 goals and finished second in points with 100.
Statistically Speaking: The Rush’s club record with 203 goals was the third-highest total in the league this season, while Edmonton led the entire NLL with 170 goals against ... Reigning NLL Defender of the Year Kyle Rubisch broke his own league record with 44 forced turnovers, while Rush teammate Brett Mydske wound up second with 28 ... Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson finished fifth in the NLL in both loose balls (131) and faceoff wins (164) ... Rush goalie Aaron Bold ended up tied for third in wins with eight and placed second with a 10.56 goals-against average. Washington counterpart Tyler Richards finished with a .795 save-percentage and fourth with 579 saves ... The Rush power play ranked tied for fifth at 49% (33-for-67) while the penalty killing was last at 40% (31 goals allowed in 52 shorthanded situations) ... The Rush outscored their opposition 60-33 in first-quarter play but they were outscored 52-47 in fourth quarters ... Edmonton led the NLL with an average of 53.06 shots per game and finished third with an average of 12.69 goals per game. The Rush allowed the fewest shots at a 41.69 average and were second-best in goals-against per game average at 10.63 ... Washington average the most shots against at 53.69 ... Washington’s Bob Snider was second in the NLL with 262 faceoff wins and fourth in loose balls with 169 ... Matt Beers of the Stealth was the second-most penalized player this year with 60 PIM.
By The Numbers: During their stellar 7-1 road record this season, the Rush led the NLL with 114 goals for and only 76 goals against ... The Rush and Stealth are the two best teams in the league for holding leads. Edmonton finished the regular season 9-1 when leading after three quarters and 8-3 when leading at halftime, while Washington was 8-1 and 6-1, respectively ... The Rush are also 6-3 when they score first, and 5-6 versus West Division rivals ... When the Rush beat the Stealth 15-10, it marked the first time in franchise history that the club earned two weekly honors from the NLL in the same week - Mark Matthews for Offensive Player and Jeremy Thompson for Transition Player ... Mark Matthews was the top rookie in the NLL in points (69) and goals (38) while placing third in assists (31). Matthews’ 38 goals were the third-most scored by a rookie in NLL history … Fellow Rush rookie Curtis Knight was fourth in points (46) and assists (27) and fifth in goals (19), and also tied for second in power-play goals with six ... Mark Matthews’ ‘sock trick’ against Washington tied him for the NLL’s single-game high for goals this season ... The Rush also led the NLL this season with a single-game high of 96 loose balls during their win at Buffalo in March ... Zack Greer tied for second in game-winning goals this season with four, while Chris Corbeil tied for second with four shorthanded goals. Corbeil also led all NLL defenders with nine goals and tied for fourth in points by a defender with 14 ... Familiar face – former Rush Dean Hill was fourth in goals for the Stealth with 20 on the year.