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Rush ready for a fast start in 2013

01/08/2013, 12:00pm EST
By NLL.com

Edmonton hosts Toronto for Sunday matinee

The Edmonton Rush begin their 2013 NLL regular season at home against the Toronto Rock on Sunday, Jan. 13 at 4 p.m. ET at Rexall Place.

The Edmonton Rush open their 2013 National Lacrosse League season at home against the Toronto Rock (1-0) for their home opener on Sunday, Jan. 13 at 4 p.m. ET at Rexall Place. Watch the game live on the NLL on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network by clicking here.

The Rush, defending NLL West Division champs, are coming off a remarkable playoff run which led them to the 2012 Champion’s Cup final. Following a lackluster regular season, the Rush blasted into the playoffs, first taking out the Calgary Roughnecks in the West Semifinal and then the Minnesota Swarm in the West Final.

“There’s no overconfidence," said Rush GM and head coach Derek Keenan. "We were a 6-10 team that played well at the right time. We’ve talked about having a more consistent and better regular season. We capitalized on the sense of urgency down the stretch and in the playoffs and now we have to capitalize on it more consistently.”

The Rush will look to take advantage of playing at home to start the year before hitting the road midseason.

“We have five of our first seven at home before a long road trip," Keenan said. "It gives us a better opportunity but we still need to execute and have a better start. We don’t want to catch up with the rest of the league and in particular our division so we need to take advantage.”

Edmonton placed fourth in the West Division during the regular season with a 6-10 record. Toronto enters the 2013 season coming off a first-place finish in the East Division at a 9-7 mark, but the Rock were eliminated in the East Final in a 17-13 loss to Rochester.

This is the first of two meetings between the Rush and Rock – the second matchup coming at the end of Edmonton’s five-game road trip in March.

Toronto has a 10-3 record all-time against Edmonton, winning both meetings last season, including a 12-11 win in the Rush’s home finale of 2012. That loss ended the Rush’s three-game winning streak against Toronto at Rexall Place. The Rock also earned a 12-8 win over the Rush in Toronto last season, which extended their mark to a perfect 7-0 in home games against the Rush.

In the road loss at Toronto, the Rush got a hat trick from Ryan Ward plus a pair of goals from Corey Small, while Aaron Bold managed 23 saves. The home-field loss to Toronto spoiled a two-goal, two-assist outing by Rush sniper Zack Greer along with a 31-save performance from Bold.

The 2013 home opener for the Rush will mark the debut of first overall draft pick Mark Matthews, along with fellow draftees Curtis Knight and Michael Burke. Matthews, the former All-American from Denver University, is expected to bring significant firepower to a lineup that ranked last in goals scored last season.

Expected to provide the scoring punch alongside Matthews are Zack Greer, the Rush’s goal-getter with 31 last season, Ryan Ward, who led the NLL in playoff scoring last spring, and former team scoring leader Corey Small. Offseason trades have brought the Rush more youth and athleticism in newcomers Jeremy Thompson and Jarett Davis.

The Rush boast one of the NLL’s stingiest defenses, one which surrendered the second-fewest goals in the league last season. Anchoring the group are goaltender Aaron Bold and defender Kyle Rubisch, the reigning NLL Defensive Player of the Year.

Bold, who ended last year with a spot on the NLL’s Second All-Pro Team, is coming off a terrific campaign that saw him lead the league in minutes played (951) and finish third in both goals-against average (10.47) and total saves (571). Bold, who was the NLL’s Defensive Player of the Week for Week 14 last season, also set a Rush team record for assists in a season by a goaltender as he registered 14 helpers.

Rubisch, who landed a spot on the First All-Pro Team, led the NLL last season with 43 forced turnovers and finished sixth with 151 loose balls. The third-year pro was twice named NLL Defensive Player of the Week (Weeks 8 and 15), and earned a starting spot on the West Division All-Star Team.

The Rush will have five players wearing letters of leadership this season. Jimmy Quinlan retains the captain’s ‘C’ while Ryan Ward and Brett Mydske will wear an ‘A’ for home games, while Kyle Rubisch and Chris Corbeil will wear the ‘A’ for road games.

Edmonton was one of the best teams in the league out of the gate during games last season. The Rush outscored their opponents 48-36 in opening quarters, and 49-35 in third quarters. But the Rush were woeful in fourth quarter play, trailing the opposition by a 34-51 count. Toronto was a dominant first-half team last season, outscoring their opponents 105-84.

The Rush closed two straight seasons with games against Toronto at Rexall Place. Prior to last year’s 12-11 loss, the Rush topped the Rock 18-14 in the 2011 NLL season finale – a game which set Rush team records for goals scored in a victory, and goals scored in a first half (13).

The Rock beat the Calgary Roughnecks on the road by a score of 13-11 on Saturday night at Scotiabank Saddledome as Toronto tries for a weekend sweep in Alberta on Sunday.

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