Rookie phenom Mark Matthews, the first overall pick in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft, scored six goals to lead the Edmonton Rush (2-4) to their first home win with a 15-10 victory over the Washington Stealth (4-4) at Rexall Place on Friday night.
"[Matthews] had a little fire under his belly tonight," said Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. "He played so hard tonight and he just did things without the ball we wanted him to do."
Rush forward Ryan Ward opened the scoring 5:48 into the game as both defenses were strong early on. Matthews scored his first of the night to make it 2-0 midway through the first quarter and Edmonton would never trail in the game. The Stealth tied it 2-2 but the Rush answered with two more goals, the second via Ward’s second of the night with nine seconds left, for a 4-2 lead after one quarter.
Matthews scored twice more in the second quarter as Edmonton led 7-3 at halftime. The teams combined for nine goals in the high-scoring third quarter as the Rush widened their lead to 12-7 entering the fourth.
After two more goals by Matthews, Stealth forward Rhys Duch scored twice to cut the deficit to 14-10 with a little over four minutes left, but the margin was too much to overcome.
“We became stagnant and comfortable,” said Stealth captain Kyle Sorensen. “The mental preparation wasn’t there. We turned the ball over too much. We made mistakes all over the floor. We didn’t get stops when we needed them.”
Duch posted a game-high eight points (4+4) in the losing effort while Matthews finished with seven points (6+1) and Ward had six points (2+4) in the win. When Matthews was asked if he was aware that he tied the club's franchise record for goals by a player in a single game, the laid-back 23-year-old simply replied "cool" with a shrug of his shoulders before deferring questions to their game in Colorado.
Edmonton outshot Washington 61-35 as Rush goalie Aaron Bold had to make just 25 saves. Stealth netminder Tyler Richards made 46 stops and was impressed by the play of Matthews.
"He's a heck of a player," Richards said. "Give him time and space, he's going to do his thing."
The 35 shots by the Stealth were the fewest of any NLL team in a game so far this season as Washington has now lost three of their last four games.
“We knew exactly what was coming and we let it happen to us,” said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. “We got behind the eight ball early. We just let them smother us right away.”