In the second leg of a back-to-back weekend, the Edmonton Rush (13-0) kept their perfect season alive by defeating the Toronto Rock (5-9) by a score of 13-10 before a crowd of 10,655 at Air Canada Centre on Sunday afternoon.
With the win, the Rush won their 13th-straight game to break the NLL single-season record for consecutive wins, once held by the 2007 Rochester Knighthawks, which they matched with last night's victory in Rochester.
“It's about them,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan of his players amid the record-breaking streak. “It's resiliency, they're composed and they don't get rattled.”
Edmonton also extended their league-record regular season road win streak to 13 games dating back to Feb. 16, 2013. The previous mark was 10 games held by the 1992-94 Buffalo Bandits.
“It feels good, we're taking it one game at a time,” said Rush goalie Aaron Bold. “We have a good coaching staff and they prepare us very well game in and game out.”
In what proved to be a well balanced attack, six Rush runners scored three or more points to help Edmonton continue their historic undefeated streak while disarming Toronto from sole possession of the East Division's final playoff spot. With four games remaining, the Rock share a 5-9 record with the Philadelphia Wings locking the two teams up in the third and final playoff spot in the division.
“We need to stay at it, find a way to get better,” said Rock captain Colin Doyle, who had a goal and an assist in the loss. “If we can just get one win, who knows what happens from there. Sometimes you lose sight of the fact that we can be a good team because we've been losing so much.”
Over the opening 1:34, Rush defender Nik Bilic and Rock forward Garrett Billings each scored on the game's first two shots. Just 49 seconds after the Billings goal, defender Sandy Chapman gave Toronto an early 2-1 lead with a goal on the transition. Edmonton closed the quarter by going on a late 3-1 run to climb on top of the Rock 4-3 heading into the second frame.
Forwards Zack Greer and Kasey Beirnes traded goals over the frame's first 6:52. Quickly afterward, Edmonton's Cory Conway extended the Rush's lead to 6-4 with a powerplay tally just past the halfway mark of the quarter. Josh Sanderson, Rob Hellyer and Stephan Leblanc, over a 4:05 span, each scored on a late Toronto run to put the Rock up 7-6 at halftime.
After seven quiet minutes to start the second half, the Rush's Ryan Dilks, Mark Matthews and Chris Corbeil all scored as part of a 3-0 run over a 5:26 span. Billings, at the 12:59 mark, stopped the bleeding keeping the Rock within one goal heading into the final frame.
The Rush pulled ahead dramatically scoring four straight times to start the fourth frame. Doyle and Billings answered back each scoring a goal late to pull the Rock within 13-10 not long before the final buzzer sounded.
“It's disappointing,” said Rock assistant coach Dan Ladouceur. “We didn't chip in on the transition as much as we could of, but I thought we played well five-on-five. I think when we look at the stats, we're going to see that goals on the [Rush] transition and powerplay goals against really hurt us.”
On the afternoon, the Rock allowed six powerplay tallies on eight Rush attempts while only amounting just one powerplay goal of their own. To make matters worse, Toronto, over four total man-advantage opportunities, allowed two shorthanded goals. All together, the Rush scored eight of their 13 goals in non even-strength play.
Veteran goalie Brandon Miller got his first start in a Toronto Rock uniform and finished with 40 saves on 53 shots for a .755 save percentage. After allowing the first shot of the game to squeak beyond the goal line, Miller settled in and went on to stop 20 of the next 25 Rush shots heading into the second half.
“I just had to get comfortable,” said Miller. “I was saying to some of the guys in the room that I was feeling some nerves that haven't felt in maybe seven or eight years.”
Sunday marked just the second time this season Miller played a full 60 minutes. His last full effort came on Feb 23, a game in which his then Philadelphia Wings fell to the Minnesota Swarm by a score of 15-14.
“It was a tough one because I felt good at times and at others I felt a little rusty,” said Miller of his first game with the Rock. “In a three-goal game, there were three [goals] I should of had.”
On the other end of the floor, Rush goaltender Bold stood tall and continued what has been a career year for himself. The league's top netminder stopped 38 of the Rock's 48 shots for a sharp .792 save percentage. Over 13 games this season, Bold holds a .804 save percentage while allowing just 8.31 goals per game.
“It's a nice accomplishment,” said Bold. “Not to sound cliche, but we try to play five minutes at a time, that's what I try to tell myself.”
Sanderson (2+3) led all Rock shooters with five points on the afternoon. Damon Edwards followed up with four assists in the loss.
Jarrett Davis (2+3) and Zack Greer (3+2) led the way for the Rush scoring five points a piece in the victory.
The Rock will embark to Vancouver to take on the Stealth next Saturday evening while the Rush will be at home to take on the Colorado Mammoth on the same night.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Zack Greer
2) Chris Corbeil
3) Josh Sanderson