After the Edmonton Rush (1-1) scored a convincing 18-10 road win over the Washington Stealth (2-1) last weekend, the two teams will meet again on Friday, this time at Rexall Place in Edmonton at 9 p.m. ET. (Photo: Richard Olson)
After the Edmonton Rush (1-1) scored a convincing 18-10 road win over the Washington Stealth (2-1) last weekend, the two teams will meet again on Friday, this time at Rexall Place in Edmonton at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on the NLL on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
If the Stealth hope to bounce back from their first loss, they will have to contain Rush rookie sensation Mark Matthews, who’s already looking like a dominant scorer in the NLL with 14 points (7+7) after just two games, including a nine-point performance (4+5) against Washington, the most of any NLL player in a single game so far this season.
“[Matthews] is pretty tough,” Stealth general manager Doug Locker said. “What makes him as good of a player as he is, is that he’s got a lot of really good offensive players around him as well. That whole unit did a great job. Made it very difficult and made for a long night for our defense.”
Over their first two games, the Stealth were able to ride a much-improved offense that averaged 15 goals per game over the two wins. By holding Washington to just 10 goals, Edmonton showed the same strong defense that helped lead them all the way to the NLL Championship Game last season.
“We stayed focused and stuck to our principles,” said Rush forward Corey Small. “We got a few lucky bounces our way which helped us out. As far as our defense, they’ve been solid as usual. Offensively, it has kind of been ‘scoring-by-committee.’ Everybody is chipping in and doing their part.”
Stealth forward Rhys Duch was still able to find a way to score on the stingy defense, posting his third hat trick in as many games in 2013. Washington also got big contributions from transition player Bob Snider, who scored two goals and added an assist, and forward Athan Iannucci, who scored two goals in the losing effort.
“We just need to finish,” Iannucci said. “I thought we were getting some decent looks but had a couple bad bounces and couple chances that we just missed. They are a tough defense and we are going to have to capitalize.”
Two players kept silent on the Stealth’s offense were Lewis Ratcliff and early-season surprise Cliff Smith, who won back-to-back NLL Offensive Player of the Week awards to start the 2013 season, as both were held scoreless last Sunday.
The Steath also struggled with discipline and their penalty kill, as Edmonton’s offense capitalized on four of their five chances and added a shorthanded goal late in the first half.
“One of our focuses for this weekend is that we’d rather play 5-on-5 than play a man short,” Iannucci said. “We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box and do a better job with that. Hopefully the familiarity with playing them six days ago will help.”
The Rush had another solid outing from netminder Aaron Bold last week, as he stopped 33 of Washington’s 43 shots and kept his opponent to under 10 goals for the second straight game.
“It was obviously a nice win for us,” said Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. “Kind of regruped after a tough opening loss the week before. We know it’s going to get tougher on Friday night. We played hard (last game), but at the same time, we had a lot of luck on our side.”
Washington’s goaltending situation is very much up in the air this season with three goaltenders on the roster as the injury status of starter Tyler Richards is still in question. Nick Patterson has been filling in for Richards in his absence. Patterson played very well at times last week but was unable to keep a very potent Rush offense at bay and allowed 14 of the Rush’s 18 goals last weekend.
To back up Patterson while Richards recovers, the Stealth brought in Neil Tyacke, who has seen very limited acton in the NLL in his career and, prior to last weekend, had not appeared in a game since 2011. In relief of Patterson, Tyacke stopped four of Edmonton’s seven shots over his 11:19 time on the floor.
The Stealth are cautiously optimistic that Richards is close to returning but probably won’t know for sure until gametime on Friday.
“We are going day-to-day with Tyler (Richards),” Locker said. “He suffered a lower body injury in our opening game but we’re optimistic that he will be able to go. We are being very cautious with him and holding him back a little more than we normally would because it’s so early in the season and we want to have [him] healthy moving forward.”
After the most convincing win of any 2013 NLL regular season game thus far, Keenan said he expects Washington to have a better showing against his team this weekend.
“You just know they’re going to bring it,” Keenan said. “Nobody likes to get beat like that.”
The Stealth will have a quick turnaround after Friday night’s game as they will travel to Minnesota to play the Swarm at Xcel Energy Center at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday while the Rush will rest up before returning to action the following weekend.