The Edmonton Rush (1-1), powered by rookie phenom Mark Matthews, got their first win and handed the Washington Stealth (2-1) their first loss of the 2013 National Lacrosse League season with an 18-10 victory at Comcast Arena on Sunday.
Matthews, the first overall selection in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft, opened the scoring just 31 seconds into the game and the Rush never looked back as they would not trail the rest of the way.
“We gave up an easy goal on the first shot," said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. "Personally, I don’t think we ever recovered from the first goal of the game."
Matthews finished with nine points (4+5), the most points by a player in the NLL in a single game so far this season. Matthews was drafted by the Rush with the first-round pick acquired from the Stealth in the trade that sent Athan Iannucci to Washington in exchange for Paul Rabil last February.
“[Matthews] is just such a big, skilled kid," said Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan. "He loves the game and loves to compete."
The teams went goal-for-goal in the first quarter to take a 3-3 tie into the second. Edmonton went on a three-goal scoring run to take a 6-3 lead and led 8-5 at halftime.
Matthews opened the scoring in the second half, almost exactly as he had in the first, by finding open space and firing from deep. The Rush scored four straight goals to chase Stealth goalie Nick Patterson for last-second free agent pickup Neil Tyacke. The Stealth’s usual starting goalie, Tyler Richards, was mysteriously scratched for the second straight game.
The goalie change seemed to wake up the Stealth as they scored three goals in a 32-second window, faster than any three-goal span by a team in the entire 2012 season, in the final minute of the third quarter to pull within 12-8. But the Rush stopped the momentum with a three-goal run of their own early in the fourth quarter to make the score 15-8, sending Tyacke back to the bench as the rout was on.
“I felt okay,” Tyacke said. “The outcome was unfortunate. Realistically, it wasn’t the way I would have planned it. I knew I would be suiting up for the game at about noon (PT) so I had a couple hours to get ready.”
Tyacke saw 11 minutes of action during the game with four saves on seven shots. Patterson handled the bulk of the work and made just 26 stops on 40 shots.
Aaron Bold turned another impressive outing for the Rush with 33 saves on 43 shots. Not only did Bold keep the opposition to just 10 goals for the second time in as many weeks, he also contributed two assists, including a long breakaway pass to Jarrett Toll in the third quarter.
“Aaron is a good athlete,” Keenan said. “He gets it in the stick quickly and moves it up the floor. But the big thing is making the saves first, which obviously he did a good job of tonight."
Edmonton’s Corey Small had seven points (2+5), Ryan Ward recorded six points (3+3) while Zack Greer (1+3) and Curtis Knight (1+3) both had four points in the win. With five assists, Matthews showed good chemistry with his teammates.
"He’s got good guys around him already but he has to be respected," Keenan said. "He makes other defenses respect him and consequently other guys are going to get open."
Washington's Rhys Duch registered five points (3+2), his third hat trick in as many games this season, while Dean Hill had four points (1+3) and Bob Snider had three points (2+1) in the losing effort. Snider went 27-for-32 (84%) on faceoffs and twice scored in transition with individual efforts after winning the draw, while Athan Iannucci finished with two points (2+0).
“We put a lot of pressure on our offense," Iannucci said. "Playing against one of, if not the best, defenses in the league, I think we got frustrated individually. It filters down to the rest of the team and hurts our production.”
Special teams played a big role for the Rush, particularly in the first half, when they scored on all three of their power plays and added a shorthanded goal, and finished 4-for-5 on the power play on the night.
The Rush and Stealth will get right back at it this Friday at 9 p.m. ET at Rexall Place in Edmonton, where both teams expect a much more competitive game.
“If we don’t bounce back and have a better performance than that next week, then we are not doing our job,” Duch said. “[Coach] loves to preach that we are paid to do this. It’s fair to say you’re not earning your money if you’re putting a performance like that out too many games in a row.”