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Rush Season Home Opener Sunday

January 10, 2013 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) Edmonton Rush

Edmonton, AB---The 2013 National Lacrosse League season launches for the Edmonton Rush as they host the Toronto Rock in their home-opener at Rexall Place.

The Rush are the defending NLL West Division champs coming off a remarkable playoff run which led them to the 2012 Champion's Cup. Following a lacklustre '12 regular season, the Rush blasted into the playoffs, first taking out the Calgary Roughnecks in the West Semifinal and then trouncing the Minnesota Swarm in the West Final. Edmonton's impressive post-season run finally came to an end when they were defeated by the Rochester Knighthawks in the Champion's Cup title game.

Edmonton placed fourth in the West Division during the regular season with a 6-10 record. Toronto enters the 2013 season coming off a first-place finish in the East Division at a 9-7 mark, but the Rock were eliminated in the East Final in a 17-13 loss to Rochester.

This is the first of two meetings between the Rush and Rock - the second matchup coming at the end of Edmonton's five-game road trip through March.

Toronto has won 10 of 13 all-time meetings with Edmonton, and captured both meetings last season including a 12-11 verdict in the Rush's home finale of 2012. That loss ended the Rush's three-game winning streak against Toronto at Rexall Place. The Rock also earned a 12-8 win over the Rush in Toronto last season, which extended their mark to a perfect 7-0 in home games against the Rush.

In the road loss at Toronto, the Rush got a hat trick from Ryan Ward plus a pair of goals from Corey Small, while Aaron Bold managed 23 saves. The home-field loss to Toronto spoiled a two-goal, two-assist outing by Rush sniper Zack Greer along with a 31-save performance from Bold.

The 2013 home opener for the Rush will mark the debut of first overall draft pick Mark Matthews, along with fellow draftees Curtis Knight and Michael Burke.

Matthews, the former All-American from Denver University, is expected to bring significant firepower to a lineup that ranked last in goals scored last season. Matthews, who played for Rush GM/Derek Keenan in junior with the Whitby Warriors, notched 155 goals (including 30 hat tricks and 21 power-play markers) and 216 points while at Denver.

Expected to provide the scoring punch alongside Matthews are Zack Greer, the Rush's goal-getter with 31 last season, Ryan Ward, who led the NLL in playoff scoring last spring, and former team scoring leader Corey Small. Off-season trades have brought the Rush more youth and athleticism in newcomers Jeremy Thompson and Jarrett Davis.

The Rush boast one of the NLL's stingiest defenses, one which surrendered the second-fewest goals in the league last season. Anchoring the group are goaltender Aaron Bold and defender Kyle Rubisch, the reigning NLL Defensive Player of the Year.

Bold, who ended last year with a spot on the NLL's Second All-Pro Team, is coming off a terrific campaign that saw him lead the league in minutes played (951) and finish third in both goals-against average (10.47) and total saves (571). Bold, who was the NLL's Defensive Player of the Week for Week 14 last season, also set a Rush team record for assists in a season by a goaltender as he registered 14 helpers.

Rubisch, who landed a spot on the First All-Pro Team, led the NLL last season with 43 forced turnovers and finished sixth with 151 loose balls. The third-year pro was twice named NLL Defensive Player of the Week (Weeks 8 and 15), and earned a starting spot on the West Division All-Star Team.

Rush vs. Rock - Season-by-Season Glance

2012

12-11 Rock win at Edmonton (Colin Doyle racks up one goal and seven assists)

12-8 Rock win at Toronto (Garrett Billings registers one goal and six assists)

2011

13-7 Rock win at Toronto (Blaine Manning notches one goal and five assists)

18-14 Rush win at Edmonton (Corey Small registers seven points including hat trick)

2010

16-7 Rock win at Toronto (Blaine Manning pots 10 points on five goals and five assists)

14-13 Rush win at Edmonton (Ryan Powell notches eight points including four goals)

2009

16-9 Rock win at Toronto (Lewis Ratcliff scores four goals with three assists)

16-12 Rush win at Edmonton (Andy Secore fires in five goals plus three assists)

2008

14-9 Rock win at Edmonton (Josh Sanderson picks up one goal and six assists)

14-9 Rock win at Toronto (Aaron Wilson registers four goals and one assist)

2007

12-9 Rock win at Edmonton (Aaron Wilson racks up one goal and four assists)

2006

14-8 Rock win at Toronto (Blaine Manning scores once and chips in 10 assists)

13-11 Rock win at Edmonton (Colin Doyle notches two goals and five assists)

Statistically Speaking: The Rush finished with a league-low 167 goals scored last season, but allowed the second-fewest goals against with only 175 ... The Rock's 198 goals scored last season tied them for first in the East, and they were best in the East with 196 goals against ... Edmonton's power play is an area for improvement after settling at just 32.5% last season. The Rush's penalty killing stood at 50.0% for the year ... Toronto's high-octane offense held a power play at 50.0% while the penalty-killing unit managed a 56.1% kill rate ... The Rock were 5-4 against an equally balanced East Division last season, while the Rush struggled to a 4-7 mark against West foes.

By The Numbers: The Rush will have five players wearing letters of leadership this season. Jimmy Quinlan retains the captain's "˜C' while Ryan Ward and Brett Mydske will wear an "˜A' for home games, while Kyle Rubisch and Chris Corbeil will wear the "˜A' for road games ... The Rush defense was the league's ball-stealing group in 2012 as four players ranked in the NLL's top-10 for forced turnovers. Kyle Rubisch was tops in the NLL with 43, while Jarrett Toll racked up 20, Jeff Cornwall registered 19, and Brett Mydske earned 18 ... Edmonton was one of the best teams in the league out of the gate during games last season. The Rush outscored their opponents 48-36 in opening quarters, and 49-35 in third quarters. But the Rush were woeful in fourth quarter play, trailing the opposition by a 34-51 count ... Toronto was a dominant first-half team last season, outscoring their opponents 105-84 ... The Rush closed two straight seasons with games against Toronto at Rexall Place. Prior to last year's 12-11 loss, the Rush topped the Rock 18-14 in the 2011 season finale - a game which set Rush team records for goals scored in a victory, and goals scored in a first half (13).

Rush Records: The 2012 season featured a handful of new Rush team records including a group set by netminder Aaron Bold. The Rush goalie set new team marks for goals-against average (10.47), minutes played (951), saves (571), and assists by a goaltender (13) ... Aaron Ward set a new standard for points in a game when he stunned the Calgary Roughnecks for 11 points in Edmonton's West Division semifinal win last spring ... Corey Small established a new team-high for assists in a game with seven coming in a victory of Washington ... Zack Greer's 157 shots were the most in team history.

KEENAN'S KORNER

Quotes from the Rush GM/Head Coach

"There's no over-confidence. (Last year) we were a 6-10 team that played well at the right time. We've talked about having a more consistent and better regular season. We capitalized on the sense of urgency down the stretch and in the playoffs and now we have to capitalize on it more consistently."

- Keenan on the subject of potential over-confidence following the Rush's trip to the Champion's Cup in 2012

"We have five of our first seven at home before a long road trip so it gives us a better opportunity but we still need to execute and have a better start. We don't want to catch up with the rest of the league and in particular our division so we need to take advantage."

- Keenan on the Rush's 2013 schedule

"It's the most that have ever lived in the market so that means a little less travel and a little less fatigue. They're going to get together and work out. Aaron Bold is a personal trainer so that's going to be beneficial. I think it's going to be positive for the team in the community and on the floor playing."

- Keenan on the fact that 10 players will be making their home in Edmonton during the season

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