The playoff picture became a little clearer Friday night in Denver.
The surging Edmonton Rush clinched a playoff berth with a 14-11 win over the Colorado Mammoth in front of 16,201 fans. The Rush (6-8) have won four of five following 2-7 start to the season.
“I thought we had a pretty good complete effort,” Edmonton head coach and general manager Derek Keenan said. “We really focused on the last five weeks in terms of the process and really not worrying about the end result.”
The loss damaged Colorado’s hopes of securing first place in the West Division and the top overall seed.
If Calgary defeats Edmonton on Saturday night, the Roughnecks would move into first place in the West and be the top overall seed ahead of the Mammoth (11-4). The Rush have dropped nine consecutive regular-season games to the Riggers in the Battle of Alberta.
“Got to take the bad with the good,” Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley said. “We weren’t at our best tonight.”
Steve Toll recorded his 400th career point on a short-handed goal early in the second half, and finished with two goals and an assist. Tom Johnson, Corey Small and Zack Greer also had two goals apiece.
League scoring leader John Grant Jr. finished with a season low-tying six points (two goals, four assists) for Colorado, increasing his league-leading total to 110 this year. Grant needs six points next Saturday against Minnesota to break John Tavares’ single-season record of 115 set in 2001.
Grant has scored 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in two matchups versus the Swarm in 2012.
Colorado’s Adam Jones (one goal, two assists) tied Brian Langtry’s franchise record for most goals by a rookie with 28. In addition, Jamie Shewchuk netted his fist two goals since returning to the Mammoth last season in a trade with Minnesota.
Sean Pollock opened for the Mammoth with an early power-play goal, which was quickly answered by Ryan Dilks. The Rush’s offense would surge for an early three-goal lead in the second quarter before Colorado could narrow the gap to 5-4 going into the half.
Colorado would come out of the locker room to tie the game at 6-all, but Johnson would net a pair in the third in addition to scores by Greer and a short-handed marker from Toll. Down by four in the final frame, Colorado’s high-powered offense continued to sputter while Edmonton took advantage.
“We got some good looks early but we just couldn’t finish,” Hamley said. “If you can’t finish in this league, the goalie can take a game from you.”
Transition quickly became the Achilles’ heel for Colorado, giving up multiple goals on the fast break and making it a long night for NLL saves leader Chris Levis.
“I thought transition was the difference in the game to be honest with you,” Keenan said.
Levis would finish the night with 38 saves on 52 shots. Rush goaltender Aaron Bold stopped 49 of 60 shots.
“It’s a great win,” Bold said. “I think we’re starting to peak at the right time and we’re going to carry that momentum into the playoffs.”