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Rex-all ready to go: Rush open at home with Mammoth rematch

01/08/2014, 12:05am EST
By Mammoth beat writer Nick Salen & Rush beat writer Scott Zerr for NLL.com

"GSP Night" in Edmonton on Saturday as Colorado continues Alberta trip

Edmonton Rush (1-0) host Colorado Mammoth (1-1) for opener at Rexall Place on Saturday at 9pm ET. (Photo: Jack Dempsey)

The Edmonton Rush (1-0) host the Colorado Mammoth (1-1) for their home opener at Rexall Place on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 9 p.m. ET in a rematch of their 2014 NLL season opener. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network by clicking here.

A 13-10 season-opening win over the Mammoth was certainly cause for excitement amongst the Rush players, coaches and fans.

But Rush GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan is keeping the lid on the pot. No bubbling over in joy. No looking past the rematch against the Mammoth this Saturday in the Rush's home-opener on Crystal Glass Field at Rexall Place. And definitely not plotting any playoff positioning just yet. Game 1 is done. Game 2 is upcoming and it's still an 18-game schedule to contend with.

One step at a time.

"It's too early to get too excited, too high or too low," said Keenan. "We're going into this week prepared and ready to go."

The Rush certainly got the start they wanted to the 2014 NLL campaign. The victory in Denver was the first in a season-opener for Edmonton since 2007 when they got out to a huge lead then hung late to beat Philadelphia. More importantly, that win over the Wings was also the Rush's first-ever home-turf victory after going winless at Rexall Place in their inaugural season. So perhaps the win in Colorado last week, and a follow-up victory in the return matchup against the Mammoth will lead to as many good omens in 2014 that the win over Philadelphia did seven years ago.

It was a top-drawer win for the Rush against the Mammoth as key players contributed. A pair of talented shooters - Curtis Knight and Zack Greer - accounted for five goals, while standouts Jarrett Davis and Cory Conway both counted five points. Reigning NLL Rookie of the Year Mark Matthews didn't find the back of the net but his did pick up four assists as he returned to the city he starred in during his stellar college career. And on the back end, Aaron Bold mustered 30 saves.

For all the good that was accomplished, Keenan sees room for improvement which he'll want to shine through when the Mammoth come calling and looking for revenge.

"I felt we were really rusty and sloppy at times. I think we can be a whole lot better this week, not just in the first and fourth quarter but the entire game," noted Keenan. "We passed up a lot shots, dropped the ball at times, and our passing was not great. I think we got the rust out of our sticks and we're going to be a lot better this weekend."

Keenan, who guided the Rush to the Champion's Cup final in 2012, made sure the Rush got things rolling the right away even before the regular season started. In a twist to the usual training camp regimen, Keenan opted for a condensed, two-week set that immediately focused on team concepts rather than roster cuts.

"We brought in a low number of guys and we went pretty hard for two weeks and implemented everything we needed," Keenan explained.

"Now it's matter of practicing more and executing. We got lots of reps with what ended up in being the starting group and that's proven beneficial to us."

Adding to the festivities, Edmonton's home opener will be "GSP night" as famed MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre joins the team as a special guest.

For their second matchup in Alberta, Colorado takes on Edmonton in their building after visiting Calgary on Friday night. The two teams played in Week 1 in Denver with the Rush topping the Mammoth in a 13-10 affair.

“They were full marks for their win here in Denver, and obviously we’re going to have to be better than we were here,” added Hamley.

Colorado edged Edmonton in shots on goal in the game 40-38, but one of the deciding factors was Aaron Bold who stopped 75 percent of those shots faced in net.  In addition to Bold was the defense in front of him, who gave the Mammoth shooters quite a challenge most of the game.  Hamley further added that dissecting that defense in round two is a priority in their game plan.

“They’re very good…they play that system very well,” he commented. “You have to be patient, and you have to stick with the plan.  You can’t get off the plan, because if you do they’ll take it to you even more.”

Curtis Knight and Zach Greer led the Rush offense in that game, but the Mammoth will be extra cautious in containing last year’s Rookie of the Year, Mark Matthews, who kept him off the scoreboard, but still tallied four assists earlier this month.

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