The Edmonton Rush boosted their playoff hopes with an 11-8 win over the Buffalo Bandits on Saturday night. (Photo Credit: Dale MacMillan)
The Edmonton Rush took a big step toward securing a playoff spot with an 11-8 win over the Buffalo Bandits Saturday night at Rexall Place.
The Rush (5-8) won for the third time in four games, and improved to 4-2 at home this season. The victory, combined with Washington’s loss earlier in the night, puts the Rush in good shape heading down the stretch.
Edmonton is now 1½ games ahead of last-place Washington for the final playoff spot in the West Division, and has a game in hand on the Stealth.
Consistency has been an issue for the Rush all season long, but they put in a solid effort against the Bandits from start to finish. The Rush scored three goals in each of the first three quarters and two more in the fourth while the defense surrendered just two second-half goals.
“I thought we played 60 minutes for the first time in a while, and I thought we played 60 minutes in all areas,” said Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan. “It was a good battle-back for us. It just showed a lot of character by the guys tonight.”
Long-time veteran Shawn Williams had six points (one goal, five assists) as he continues to rewrite the Rush’s record book in his first season with the team. Already this season, Williams has set the club records for assists (eight) and points (nine) in a game, and now he has 46 helpers this year to break Ryan Ward’s mark set in 2010.
“I’m not going to say it’s not great, I’m very proud to play for this organization, but the biggest thing is getting that win, moving on, and getting a playoff spot,” said Williams, who extended the NLL’s ironman streak to 192 games. “We’ve still got to battle, and hopefully we can clinch (a playoff spot) next week.”
Zack Greer had another outstanding game for the black and silver, picking up a hat trick and adding an assist. He now leads the team with 27 goals, and has become Edmonton’s most consistent scorer.
“Zack Greer I think has just been awesome all year. Very few nights has he not been a dynamic player for us,” said Keenan.
The game was tied 6-6 at the half, but the Rush took over the game with shutdown defense in the final 30 minutes. Greer believes it what just a matter of the team staying committed to the game plan, and believing in the system.
“It was tied at halftime, but I think we played really well. A lot of good looks, I think we were outshooting them, guys were working hard,” Greer said. “To come out of half time and really stick to what we were doing, we knew the ball was going to drop a little more, and it did.”
Scott Evans, the team’s second leading goal scorer, was a healthy scratch for the Rush. Keenan wanted to get a different look on offense against Buffalo, so he elected to sit the rugged forward.
“Evy’s still a good player, a big part of this team,” explained Keenan. “Down the road probably get him back in, but tonight we felt we needed a change.”
Aaron Bold was solid in goal, making 32 saves on 40 shots for his fifth win of the season.
The Bandits (5-9) have now lost three of their last four in what has been a very up-and-down season. Last-place Buffalo now trails third-place Rochester by one game in the East, and the teams will meet next Saturday night in a game on the CBS Sports Network.
“We need to learn to take the positives out of the game and move forward,” said John Tavares, who had two goals and two assists. “It seems we’re very inconsistent. We have one good game, two or three bad ones, one good game, two or three bad ones.”
Buffalo head coach Darris Kilgour was very blunt when describing his team’s performance.
“We didn’t play real smart, we didn’t play real disciplined, and it cost us,” he said. “We didn’t execute our game plan at all, on either side of the ball.”
This was an important game for the Bandits. They were coming off a big win last week over Philadelphia, and were looking to make some ground in the tightly packed East. Instead, the team is left frustrated by a lost opportunity.
“Not a good effort, and we’re not happy with that,” said Buffalo forward Luke Wiles, who had three goals. “We have to win the last two to get in. It’s not panic time, but it’s dig-deep time.”