The Edmonton Rush (1-4) will host the Washington Stealth (4-3) at Rexall Place on Friday at 9 p.m. ET. (Photo: Dale MacMillan)
The Edmonton Rush (1-4) will host the Washington Stealth (4-3) at Rexall Place on Friday at 9 p.m. ET for their third and final meeting this season. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
The teams split their first two meetings in January as the visiting team has won both games between the clubs this season. After an 0-3 start at Rexall, Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan said his team needs a win at home.
“We owe that to our fans and organization to play better and win at home,” he said.
Edmonton will play games on consecutive nights this weekend as they also visit the Colorado Mammoth at Pepsi Center on Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET.
“This is a big weekend for us,” said Rush forward Jarrett Davis. “We’ve got back-to-back games and obviously with the 1-4 record we have right now, it’s time to turn it around.“
Last weekend, the Stealth used a brilliant effort in net by goaltender Tyler Richards to beat the Mammoth at home by a score of 13-6. Richards, who made 51 saves on 57 shots on the night, was named NLL Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
“We played very well and it starts in goal,” said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. “Tyler has had two tremendous games back-to-back now and we’ve really been in a groove playing very well. It makes things a lot easier when your goaltender is making big saves.”
The Stealth’s defense also made a big impact by holding Mammoth forward John Grant, Jr. without a goal and just one assist on the night. The team is being lead defensively by captain Kyle Sorensen, who leads the NLL with 16 forced turnovers this season. Rookie Tyler Garrison and defenseman Matt Beers, ranked third and fourth respectively, also find themselves in the top five in FT's this year.
Washington's Rhys Duch bounced back from an off game in Rochester the week before, a 7-6 loss, to score his fifth hat trick of the season and regain the NLL scoring lead with 18 goals on the year. After their 13-goal outing, the Stealth now rank fourth in the league with 12.14 goals per game in 2013.
“We put a better team game together,” said Stealth veteran forward Lewis Ratcliff. “The defense has been outstanding, but the offense has kind of picked it up the last week, so hopefully we can build on that.”
Rush rookie Mark Matthews will be the key for Edmonton offensively as he had nine points (4+5) in their 18-10 victory against Washington earlier this year, their only win to date. However, the Stealth were able to keep Matthews in check the following week by limiting him to just one goal and five points (1+4).
Minimizing the damage that Matthews creates could again be the difference on Friday.
“[Matthews] is a phenomenal player, there's no doubt about that,” Hall said. “Even though he’s a rookie, we really don’t consider him to be. Mark is a marquee player. It’s not unlike how you approach guys like John Grant, Jr. They’re going to get the ball. You know they’re going to get their points but you just try to do as much as you can to limit their opportunities.”
The Stealth also know that the Rush are a defense-first team that caused problems for other teams this year by holding opponents to 10 or fewer goals in three of their first five games.
“You have to try and think a couple steps ahead and be ready to make a pass or shoot,” Ratcliff said. “You can’t really catch [the ball] and think about it because they’re all over you as soon as you get it.”
Friday night’s game will mark the midway point of the season for Stealth, who are currently in second place in the West Division and sit just a half game back of the Calgary Roughnecks in the standings.
The Rush look to turn their season around in a hurry to avoid possibly missing the playoffs or having to try to run the table on the road like they almost did in last year’s playoffs before ultimately losing in the 2012 NLL Championship Game in Rochester.
“I think there’s a little more urgency for us to win this week,” Davis said. “It's important to get into the playoffs and it’s important to get a win at home.”