March 2, 2013 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Edmonton Rush
The Edmonton Rush will look to put an end to a 12-game regular-season losing skid against the arch-rival Calgary Roughnecks when the provincial foes hook up Saturday night in the National Lacrosse League's version of the Battle of Alberta.
Edmonton has lost twice this season to Calgary, and have not beaten the Roughnecks in regular-season play since the 2010 campaign. Tonight's game marks the third of four meetings between Edmonton and Calgary during the 2013 regular season. The Rush will host this season's final chapter on April 20.
Overall, the Rush have won three of their last four games, and are coming off a home-and-home weekend series split against the Minnesota Swarm. In last Friday's opener, the Swarm outscored the Rush 7-2 in the second half to take a 13-8 decision, but the Rush returned the favor on the Swarm's home floor Sunday afternoon, jumping out to a commanding 10-1 lead after three quarters before hanging on for a 14-9 verdict.
Sunday's win pushed the Rush into third place in the NLL's West Division, one game in back of both Calgary and Washington, and one-half game ahead of Minnesota. Calgary fell into a tie for first with Washington after falling 16-14 to the Stealth in Everett.
Calgary continued its run of success against the Rush taking victories in back-to-back weekends in February. The Roughnecks captured an 18-15 win at Rexall Place on Feb. 2, and then slipped past the Rush 9-8 on Feb. 9 at the Saddledome. A tight game throughout, the Roughnecks needed a huge fourth-quarter performance from Curtis Dickson to pull out the win. Dickson scored three of his four goals in the final stanza including the game-winner 39 seconds remaining.
Jarrett Davis led the Rush against Calgary, notching a hat trick which included a pair of power-play markers. Mark Matthews added a pair of goals, both coming in the fourth quarter, with singles going to Curtis Knight, Ryan Dilks, and Ryan Ward, who also chipped in three assists.
In the first meeting of the year between the teams, both teams fired up their offense in the opening half, racking up 20 goals and finishing up the first half tied 10-10. But the Roughnecks got the better of the Rush in the second half, outscoring Edmonton 8-5, sparked by a five-goal outburst that put them out in front to stay at 16-12.
Ryan Ward led the Rush attack with a hat trick plus four assists for a seven-point game. Jeremy Thompson potted three goals, with Zack Greer, Mark Matthews, and Corey Small each scoring twice. Singles went to Jarrett Davis, John Lafontaine, and Alex Turner.
The Roughnecks, who have won back-to-back season series 4-0 in both 2011 and 2012, have taken 15 of the last 16 regular-season matchups against the Rush and hold an overall mark of 22-4 regular-season record against Edmonton. However, the Rush are 2-0 against the Roughnecks in playoff action with both wins coming at the Saddledome. After eliminating the Roughnecks in the 2010 West Division semifinal, the Rush did it again last season, bouncing the favored Roughnecks 19-11 en route to claiming the club's first West Division title and reaching the Champion's Cup final.
Last Friday's loss to Minnesota ended the Rush's modest two-game winning streak. The Swarm, which outscored the Rush 7-2 in the second half, were the beneficiaries of standout performances from two former Edmonton players as Ryan Benesch connected for nine points and Callum Crawford collected seven. Corey Small led the Rush with a hat trick and two assists, with singles going to Jarrett Davis, Mark Matthews, Ryan Ward, Alex Turner, and Cory Conway, who also chipped in four assists.
In the return matchup Sunday, the Rush dominated for the opening three quarters and held a 6-0 lead at the half and had a nine-goal cushion heading into the final frame before the Swarm responded with six unanswered goals during a stretch in the fourth.
Zack Greer anchored the Rush attack with a hat trick, including one goal on the power play, to go with two assists. Corey Small also notched a hat trick for the second straight game, and Curtis Knight supplied two goals and two assists. The other Rush goals went to Mark Matthews, Jeremy Thompson, Cory Conway, John Lafontaine, Jarrett Toll, and Chris Corbeil.
Rush rookie sensation Mark Matthews leads the NLL with 25 goals and is tops on the team with 42 points, one up on Ryan Ward. Ward leads the Rush with 27 assists, while Corey Small is second in goals (16) and assists (23) and third in points (39).
Roughnecks star forward Shawn Evans is the NLL leader in points with 59 and assists with 39.
Rush vs. Roughnecks - Season-by-Season Glance
20139-8 Roughnecks win at Calgary (Curtis Dickson scores four goals including game-winner)
18-15 Roughnecks win at Edmonton (Jeff Shattler tallies two goals and adds six assists)
2012*19-11 Rush win at Calgary (Ryan Ward sets Rush record with 11-point game)
9-6 Roughnecks win at Edmonton (Shawn Evans racks up four goals and two assists)
16-9 Roughnecks win at Calgary (Shawn Evans pots five goals including penalty shot tally)
13-10 Roughnecks win at Edmonton (Curtis Dickson with four goals and three assists)
12-8 Roughnecks win at Calgary (Curtis Dickson nets hat trick plus two assists)
*denotes playoff game
19-14 Roughnecks win at Calgary (Jeff Shattler totals nine points with one goal and eight assists)
15-11 Roughnecks win at Edmonton (Dane Dobbie collects three goals and six assists)
12-11 Roughnecks OT win at Calgary (Mike Scherman pots the game-winner)
12-11 Roughnecks win at Edmonton (Jeff Shattler notches hat trick plus five assists)
*11-7 Rush win at Calgary (Ryan Ward notches nine points including eight assists)
13-8 Roughnecks win at Calgary (Josh Sanderson picks up three goals and three assists)
14-13 Roughnecks OT win at Edmonton (Josh Sanderson earns hat trick including game-winner)
14-11 Rush win at Edmonton (Dean Hill notches hat trick and adds one assist)
*denotes playoff game
10-9 Roughnecks OT win at Calgary (Curt Malawsky notches the game-winner)
22-10 Roughnecks win at Edmonton (Dane Dobbie collects 11 points including seven goals)
14-13 Roughnecks win at Edmonton (Tracey Kelusky racks up eight points including four goals)
11-9 Rush win at Edmonton (Jimmy Quinlan pots four goals plus one assist)
18-7 Roughnecks win at Calgary (Kaleb Toth registers nine points including four goals)
12-8 Roughnecks win at Edmonton (Curt Malawsky registers four goals and one assist)
13-12 Roughnecks win at Edmonton (Kaleb Toth and Lewis Ratcliff each with four points)
13-12 Rush win at Calgary (Chris Gill sets club record with six goals)
17-11 Roughnecks win at Edmonton (Tracey Kelusky collects two goals and seven assists)
11-9 Roughnecks win at Calgary (Lewis Ratcliff scores five goals)
12-9 Roughnecks win at Edmonton (Kaleb Toth and Tracey Kelusky each with seven points)
12-11 Rush win at Calgary (Pat Campbell earns player of the game with 54 saves)
16-9 Roughnecks win at Edmonton (Lewis Ratcliff notches four goals and two assists)
Statistically Speaking: Reigning NLL Defender of the Year Kyle Rubisch moved into first in the league with 25 forced turnovers after picking up nine in the back-to-back games against Minnesota. Teammate Brett Mydske is fifth with 14 forced turnovers Jeremy Thompson leads the Rush and is fourth in the NLL with 73 loose balls. Thompson is also fifth in the NLL with 82 faceoff wins Edmonton's power play, which went 1-for-7 last weekend against Minnesota, is ranked at just 41.0% on the year. The Rush's penalty killing stands at 50.0% The Rush have outscored their opposition 32-19 in first-quarter play this season Edmonton has collected 577 loose balls on the year, while opponents have grabbed 555. The Rush have also racked up 108 forced turnovers compared to just 66 for their opposition Calgary has the NLL's most potent offense with 128 goals so far this season, but the Roughnecks have allowed a league-high 118 goals. The Rush are tied for second with Washington in goals scored with 111, and Edmonton is tied for tops in the West with Colorado in goals allowed at 98 Roughnecks Curtis Dickson (23) and Dane Dobbie (22) are both in the NLL's top-five goal scorers. Dobbie is also fourth in the league with nine power-play goals.
By The Numbers: After the split with Minnesota, the Rush are now 4-4 against West Division foes this season. Calgary is 4-2 against the West so far in 2013 Helping out the cause in Sunday's win over Minnesota were Jarrett Davis and Ryan Ward who combined for nine assists Rush rookie Curtis Knight is now third on the team with 19 assists, while Zack Greer moved into fourth with 10 goals Minnesota scored two shorthanded goals against the Rush in their comeback bid on Sunday while Edmonton countered with an extra attacker goal from Corey Small and an empty-net tally from Chris Corbeil Goaltender Aaron Bold, who set the club record for assists by a goalie last season, picked up his fourth of the year on Jeremy Thompson's marker against the Swarm. Bold was pulled in both games this season against Calgary, giving Brodie MacDonald his first action of the season. Bold has since bounced back and is third in the NLL with a 10.64 goals-against average Roughnecks goalie Mike Poulin is second in the league with 337 saves Calgary's Geoff Snider leads the NLL in loose balls (143), faceoff wins (183), and penalty minutes (57), and is also third in forced turnovers with 15.
Quotes from the Rush GM/Head Coach
"It was big to get the `W'. We ran out of gas a bit and lost our composure at the end of the game but we got the `W' and that's the important thing."
- Keenan on last Sunday's victory in Minnesota
"Two years ago it was probably `Enough is enough.' It's a little painful even to talk about it. We have to get the job done, that's the bottom line. It's been too long."
- Keenan on the Rush's 12-game regular-season losing streak against Calgary
"It was my first full year behind the bench and it was the goal he scored against Rochester with 1.4 seconds to go. That was probably the most exciting game I've ever been involved in and it was the last major event at Maple Leaf Gardens."
- Keenan's reflections on former NLL star Kaleb Toth who will be honored by the Roughnecks prior to Saturday's game
Jeremy Thompson finding his way in his new home Edmonton
Far away from his own family in upstate New York, Jeremy Thompson found himself another much-needed family upon his arrival in Edmonton.
His discovery came as he took his first strides into the Rush organization.
"It started when I first got here for training camp," said Thompson prior to the Rush preparing for Saturday night's hotly anticipated clash with the Calgary Roughnecks.
"I really sensed it with all the guys on the team. It really felt like a family."
As it turned out, having a second clan became a great source of strength for Thompson as his own close-knit family was going through a very private and difficult time.
"My teammates and Pauline Hughes (the Rush's Director of Communications) were there for me to talk to. Pauline was like a second mom for me everyone was so great," said Thompson. "This was really my first time away from home, all this happened, and my daughter just turned one in December. But out of all of it came a lot of good."
Thompson has repaid a number of his teammates by becoming their go-to guy when it comes to pre-game meals. In fact his prowess in the kitchen, including an early-season feast of salmon, angel hair pasta primavera, mashed potatoes and vegetables, was singled out by star rookie Mark Matthews as a big part of his success.
Happily settled in with his new lacrosse family, Thompson can now look back on how it all came to be. Through various maneuvers within the National Lacrosse League, Thompson found his new home on a journey that began back in July of 2011.
It was at that point that the Rush sent a package of draft picks including their 2011 first-rounder to Minnesota for three players including Aaron Wilson plus a second-round selection in the '11 draft. Two months later, the Rush sent that recently acquired second-round pick from Minnesota along with another pick to Buffalo in exchange for transition talent Chris Corbeil.
Buffalo then used that second-round selection to pick up a local product named Jeremy Thompson, a standout midfielder from Syracuse University. As the Rush headed into the 2013 NLL season, GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan looked over his roster and wanted to add more speed along with someone who could hold his own in the faceoff circle. So Keenan sent the aforementioned Wilson to Buffalo in exchange for Thompson.
It's quite something to see the NLL world turn.
"There's always a reason why something happens. You just have to have a good clear mind and give it your all," said Thompson. "You don't have to figure out the answers of why things unravelled the way they did. You just keep focused and encourage others and there will be a good outcome."
Keenan is certainly pleased with the outcome of his wheeling and dealing that landed Thompson.
"He's been great. He's a real energy guy and brings a lot of intensity," said Keenan. "For a guy that has mostly played field lacrosse he's got a pretty good understanding of this game and he's become a real composed guy for us."
Thompson's intensity has shone through statistically as well. He has taken over the team lead and sits fourth in the entire NLL with 73 loose balls, and despite regularly facing the league's best faceoff men already this season, Thompson has managed 82 wins on the dot, good enough for fifth in the league.
While he has plenty of skill, Thompson's game is all about hustle.
"That's how I was taught to play the game. It goes back to the roots of the game," he explained. "I know what my duties are, to play in the system the coach wants. I want to win and I was taught to do whatever the coach asks me to do no questions asked because I love this game."