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Gold Rush: Mammoth look to prove their mettle against Edmonton

04/07/2014, 11:30am EDT
By Rush beat writer Scott Zerr & Mammoth beat writer Nick Salen for NLL.com

Unbeaten Edmonton seeks 15th-straight, Colorado in heart of playoff race

Undefeated Edmonton Rush (14-0) visit Colorado Mammoth (5-10) at Pepsi Center on Friday at 9pm ET. (Photo: Jack Dempsey)

The undefeated Edmonton Rush (14-0) look to continue their record-setting start when they visit the Colorado Mammoth (5-10), fighting for the third and final playoff spot in the West Division, for a rematch at Pepsi Center on Friday at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on Altitude2 and for free on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.

For most of their history in the National Lacrosse League, the Edmonton Rush have been the toy-sized poodle trying to keep up with the big dogs.

It’s been teams like the Colorado Mammoth and Calgary Roughnecks that the Rush have been trying to emulate under GM/head coach Derek Keenan’s watch. Those two clubs are perennially in the hunt for the Champion’s Cup, a combination of youthful exuberance and veteran talent, and solid at both ends of the floor.

With just four games to go in the 2014 NLL regular season, the Rush have shown plenty of bite and snarl, racking up a perfect 14-0 record, locking down first overall and home-turf advantage throughout the playoffs. This weekend might just be the final measuring stick for the Rush as they visit both the Mammoth and Roughnecks in back-to-back road games – Friday in Denver and then Saturday in Calgary. The Rush will not only have their record-setting regular-season unbeaten streak on the line, they’ll have their almost-as-impressive 13-0 road run at stake.

“The 14-0 is nice but no matter what our record is at the end of the year, we want to keep getting better,” said Rush assistant coach Jeff McComb. “We took a step backwards last week and we want to take a step forward this week.”

Except for brief spurts, like when they scored four goals in a team record 1:36, the Rush didn’t look great in last Saturday’s 12-11 win over Colorado at Rexall Place. Of all the close games this season, it was probably the one the Rush should have lost and had their streak come to an end.

“One goal we had was to get a home playoff game and the next was to get home-field advantage so that’s great but we would have liked to have done with a better effort,” said the Rush’s Kyle Rubisch, the NLL’s two-time reigning Defenseman of the Year. “That was a bit of a setback because every game this season we have gotten better.”

But the Rush did hang on for the win and they’ll get a chance to complete a season sweep of the Mammoth on Friday. Edmonton has won five of its last seven in Denver including the 2014 season-opener.

Last Saturday, Colorado challenged Edmonton on both ends of the floor before falling to the unbeaten Rush. Despite being outmatched in nearly every team category in the contest, the Mammoth rallied from a six-goal deficit in the second half before ultimately coming up short.

Mammoth co-coach Dan Stroup mentioned earlier this week that the team has proven they can battle close against any opponent, but good play is all for not if a team cannot a full 60 minutes.

“I thought the guys played great,” Stroup said. “We had that 1:36 where they got four goals, and that can’t happen again. We got to put a whole game together, but the guys are playing great, very pleased with their effort, but this late in the season we got to start putting wins together.”

The win also eventually led to the Rush clinching the top overall seed and home-floor advantage throughout the postseason, but Colorado is hoping to get one step closer to punching their playoff ticket as well down the stretch. They currently hold a half game lead over Vancouver for the third and final playoff seed.

Mammoth forward Adam Jones commented this week that every game is imperative with the Stealth breathing down their necks.

“It’s really important. Vancouver is only one game behind us right now. Any weekend, the tide can change," Jones said. "I think the last couple games, though the result hasn’t been what we wanted, I think we made a lot of progress on both ends of the floor.”

Jones registered five points (1+4) in Week 15 against the Rush, and was the second time Colorado tallied double-digits against the top defense in the NLL. Only Toronto and Rochester have also accomplished this feat in 2014.

Defense was pivotal for the Mammoth as well last weekend as Dillon Ward and company kept the Rush from netting a goal for nearly 25 minutes of game-time in the second half.

The faceoff circle proved to be a struggle for Bob Snider and the Mammoth last weekend as well. Snider, who is second in the NLL in faceoff wins with 226, won only 10 of 27 faceoffs (37%) against Jeremy Thompson of the Rush.

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