The undefeated Edmonton Rush (8-0) host the Vancouver Stealth (3-7) at Rexall Place on Saturday at 9pm ET. (Photo: Dan Brodie)
The Edmonton Rush have had a couple of close calls en route to their perfect 8-0 start to the season.
The undefeated run could have ended after just three games and back in the end of the January had the Rush not put together a terrific second-half comeback to beat the Vancouver Stealth. Six weeks have gone by. The Rush have equaled the NLL's best-ever start to a season and now need just two wins to match the longest unbeaten run in a season. Both of those records were established by the 1993 edition of the Buffalo Bandits.
And again it's the Stealth who have a chance to spoil the Rush's run - this time in a return matchup on Crystal Glass Field at Rexall Place this Saturday night.
"I think it was an example of how this group has matured," Rush GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan reflected on his team's come-from-behind win over the Stealth.
"I thought they took it to us early. It was a matter of us sticking to our game plan. We made our adjustments and got the win. We managed to squeak out a win and it showed part of how we've grown up as a group."
The Stealth's 7-2 cushion at halftime also brought about the only time this season that Rush goalie Aaron Bold got the hook from between the pipes. Backup Brodie MacDonald made the saves in relief and earned the win in the Rush's 9-8 verdict. Before that game and since then, Bold has been stellar with the league's best goals-against average (8.25) and a top-draw save-percentage (third in the league at .808). Bold is certainly the Stealth game as a personal measure of revenge.
"No excuses, I've got to be better," said Bold, who credited the Rush's off-season moves and the players' wisdom with propelling the team to its defeat-free start.
"They were huge. Our front end kind of had a complete overhaul and the dividends are paying off. Our defense has matured as a group. We all have that championship mentality."
The Rush were a little off-kilter last weekend but still kept their streak intact with a home-turf win over Toronto. Bold was clearly elated when the final buzzer sounded, leaping into the arms of the teammates who'd helped him hold off a late surge from the Rock.
"I think it was a bit more a sense of relief than celebrating the streak," said Keenan. "We kind of escaped with one. But Bold was a big part of that win for us. He was fantastic especially early on.
"We were coming off a bye week and we were a little rusty and we stood around. We improved as the game went on. After the first quarter I thought we were getting better and by the fourth quarter we were a lot better and had things going the way we wanted them to."
Meanwhile, the Stealth have made some recent changes to their roster, which included adding lefty forward, Jamie Lincoln into the mix. Lincoln spent the 2013 season with the Colorado Mammoth grabbing 25 points (15 goals, 10 assists) in 14 regular season games.
Lincoln and the Stealth are hoping to see him contribute and add some depth to the scoring on the left side of their offence.
“I've been awaiting the opportunity and I am ready to go,” said newly-added Stealth player Jamie Lincoln. “I want to contribute and be a part of that left side and produce the best I can.”
The Stealth also made some changes to their defense as both Kyle Sorensen and Chris O’Dougherty have been placed on the Injured Reserve with injuries that will require surgery. With the loss of two veteran defensemen the Stealth also signed defenseman Brad Richardson to the active roster.
Richardson, like Lincoln, spent time with the Colorado Mammoth bringing 15 games of NLL experience. In 15 career games with the Mammoth, Richardson has four assists and 81 loose balls.
The two new additions are likely to make their Stealth debut this weekend, as they try to help out a team that’s had their struggles of late.
Even with their recent ups and downs the Stealth know they’re capable of playing with the best in the league and they proved it when these teams met earlier in the season.
In their previous meeting with the Rush, the Stealth got off to a perfect start outscoring the Rush 7-2 in the first half but weren’t able to maintain it in the second, eventually falling 9-8.
It’s clear for the team to be successful this weekend it’s going to take four solid periods of lacrosse.
“We are very well aware of where we’re sitting in the standings so it’s a huge game for us,” said Stealth assistant coach Dan Perreault. “Last time we played Edmonton we played well in the first half, then it was a different team in the second half. It’s going to take a complete game to win.”
To make matters more interesting, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad will make the trip up to Edmonton to cheer on the Rush as they look to make history.