The Edmonton Rush (16-2) will enter the Champion's Cup playoffs on a winning note as a six-goal second quarter paced the top team in the National Lacrosse League to a 10-5 home win over the Vancouver Stealth (4-13) before a crowd of 7,500 at Rexall Place on Friday night.
Following a record-setting 14-0 start, the Rush had lost two of their last three games including their lone home-turf defeat of the season against Calgary last weekend, but they returned to their winning ways.
The Rush, who have home-turf advantage throughout the playoffs thanks to their league-leading 16-2 record, have a bye in the opening round of the Champion's Cup playoffs before entering the two-game West Final against the winner of the one-game West Semifinal showdown between Calgary and Colorado.
"We really needed a win tonight. We needed to get back on track," said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan. "Even though you can't fool anybody, we wanted to play with a playoff-type tempo and I really thought we did. I thought our defense was outstanding."
Edmonton completed a season-series sweep of Vancouver with the victory, and have now won nine of their last 10 against the Stealth franchise. The first two meetings of the season were both come-from-behind, one-goal victories for Edmonton, but they blew the Stealth away with a second-quarter outbreak of offense.
After a first quarter dominated by Vancouver goaltender Tyler Richards left the game tied 2-2, the Rush went on a tear in the second quarter, lighting up the Stealth with six goals.
Tyler Garrison gave the Stealth early in the second, but the Rush finally answered with goals from Chris Corbeil and Robert Church coming 27 seconds apart midway through the quarter. The goal by Corbeil tied him for the Edmonton team record for goals by a transition/defenceman in a single season at 17 with Brodie Merrill.
Cody Bremner's goal got the Stealth even again and then the Rush went on a huge tear over the final four minutes of the first half. Mark Matthews put the Rush back on top as he was left wide open at the top of the crease and took a great feed from Riley Loewen before beating Richards. Exactly one minute later, Edmonton's top goal-scorer Curtis Knight connected on his second of the game with a spectacular display of shooting skills. Knight scooted towards the net, whipped his stick behind his back, and fired a low shot past a startled Richards to put the Rush up 6-4.
The Rush successfully challenged a behind-the-net dunk shot goal by Ilja Gajic as the Stealth shooter's crafty effort was waved off due to a crease violation. Edmonton responded just 22 seconds later as Church used a double-shot fake before hitting the back of the net, and then the Rush extended their lead with 18 seconds to go in the half.
After entering the game without a goal on the year, Rubisch, the NLL's two-time reigning Defenceman of the Year, picked up his second goal of the game as he picked off an errant pass in his own end, raced down the floor, and gunned a high shot into the top corner to make it 8-4.
"It's always nice to score. It's always a little bonus when you can get a couple goals from the back end especially when you haven't scored all year," said Rubisch, who shattered his own NLL record for forced turnovers in a single season, ending the year with 61, besting the previous best of 44. "We wanted to come into the game and focus on getting playoff prepared."
The teams played a scoreless third quarter before the Rush added goals in the fourth from Loewen and Jarrett Toll. Lewis Ratcliff, with a pair, and Jamie Lincoln had the other goals for Vancouver.
Aaron Bold registered 40 saves for Edmonton as he reached 15 wins on the year and finished with an NLL record 8.73 goals against average. Richards, who had a terrific first quarter making breakaway saves against Rubisch and Jeff Cornwall and then robbed Toll in the second stanza, finished with 35 stops.
The Stealth wrap up their first regular-season in Vancouver on Saturday night when they host the Calgary Roughnecks.
Three Stars as selected by the media:
1) Kyle Rubisch
2) Curtis Knight
3) Robert Church
Prior to the start of the game, the Rush handed out their 2014 team awards:
MVP - Curtis Knight
Leading Scorer - Mark Matthews
Fans' Choice Award - John Lintz
Unsung Hero - Jeremy Thompson
Community Service - Jeremy Thompson
Top Rookie - Riley Loewen
Top Transition - Chris Corbeil
Top Defenseman - Kyle Rubisch