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Knighthawks visit Rush looking to clinch playoff spot

04/09/2013, 12:30am EDT
By NLL.com's Rush beat writer Scott Zerr and Knighthawks beat writer Travis Larner

Rochester is in with a win, Edmonton aiming for home playoff game

The Edmonton Rush (8-6) host the Rochester Knighthawks (7-7) at Rexall Place on Sunday at 4pm ET. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

After Saturday night's thrilling win in Calgary, the defending champion Rochester Knighthawks (7-7) can clinch a playoff berth with a victory when they visit the Edmonton Rush (8-6) at Rexall Place on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.

With the Roughnecks (8-7) loss, the Rush can now secure the West Division regular season title with a win over Calgary next weekend, but a win against the Knighthawks would improve their chances of hosting their first home postseason game in franchise history. Edmonton can clinch the top overall seed with wins in both of their remaining games. With a Rush loss this weekend, the Toronto Rock (10-6) would secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

“We know we’re going to face a hungry Rochester team so we’ve got to make sure we play our best and try to lock in that home playoff game,” said Edmonton forward Jarrett Davis, who came to the Rush in an off-season trade with Rochester. “Last week was disappointing. We had some good chances and we had a good effort but the outcome wasn’t there. We didn’t go that extra yard we needed to.”

While the Rush have been virtually unstoppable on the road and sport a 7-1 record away from home, they are a dejecting 1-5 at Rexall Place this season with the lone coming way back in mid-February against Washington. Even a .500 mark on their home turf would have long ago locked up a playoff date for the Rush, but that’s spilled milk. It’s time to move on and get a critical win over Rochester before facing Calgary at Rexall Place in the regular-season finale.

“We want that home playoff date, and our record at home has been more of a coincidence than anything else,” offered Rush GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan.

“Some nights we’ve played quite well and still not got the win, and there’s been other times that we haven’t been very good on the road and have got the win. I think some nights in this league you have to play unbelievably well to get the win and I think we’re going to have to do that on Sunday against Rochester.”

A win over the Knighthawks would also complete a season sweep for the Rush who took home an 11-9 win from Rochester on March 16. That victory came in the midst of the Rush’s five-game winning streak with all five wins coming on the road. This will be the fifth all-time meeting between the Rush and Knighthawks, with Edmonton holding a 3-2 edge.

The defending champions are hoping to avenge that loss and get off to a better start as Edmonton jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Rochester overcame an early four-goal deficit in the 2012 NLL Championship Game against the Rush, but were unable to do so in the championship rematch.

In their loss to the Toronto Rock, a 10-9 decision that wasn’t decided until the clock hit zero, the Knighthawks fell behind 3-0 early in the first quarter as well. Rochester settled for a weekend split after a 14-7 win over the Philadelphia Wings the night before, leading the Wings by a score 8-4 at halftime before pulling away for the victory.

“I think starts are huge in this league,” said Knighthawks forward Dan Dawson, who had a season-high 11 points (3+8) in the win over Calgary. “I think we found ourselves heading into that Toronto game on a little bit of a high. Making sure that we’re even keel, especially this Saturday. No matter what happens, we will refocus for the Sunday game. For us, the start has been huge this season.”

Fast starts have been very beneficial. Entering the weekend, the Knighthawks were 6-1 when leading after the first quarter, 5-1 when leading after the second quarter and 6-2 when leading after three quarters of play. On the other hand, they were 0-4 when trailing after one quarter, 0-3 when trailing after two and 0-5 when trailing after 45 minutes of play.

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