Edmonton Rush made quite the run this season despite having their Champion's Cup dreams cut short. (Photo: Dale MacMillan)
The Edmonton Rush didn't get the storybook ending they were hoping for but the 2014 National Lacrosse League season was still the best in franchise history.
It could be called a banner year yet without a championship banner to raise. The Rush did so much well this season that despite not getting into the Champion's Cup, this campaign had much more success than anyone expected. Still, bowing out in the West Division Finals to the arch-rival Calgary Roughnecks was a painful conclusion.
"It's a tough pill to swallow," said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan, whose team ran short of offense in falling 2-1 to the Roughnecks in the 10-minute mini-game that was required after the Rush tied the division final at a win apiece. "We knew what it was going to be all along. It wasn't what we wanted - we voted for two games, total goals - but it wasn't sprung on us."
The Rush/Roughnecks mini-game was the first of its kind in NLL history. It was required after the Roughnecks won Game 1 with a 12-11 OT verdict and the Rush followed with a 15-13 decision in Game 2. After a two-minute break from Game 2's wild finish, the two teams went at it again with a berth in the Cup final at stake. The atmosphere in Rexall Place with a season-high crowd of 9,120 in attendance was drama at its highest with the Edmonton Sun calling the entire scene "the best lacrosse ever played in the city."
"There certainly was a lot of buzz and it was very intense," said NLL Commissioner George Daniel, who took in Game 2 and saw the league's first-ever mini-game playoff. "Overall, I think we're moving in the right direction with this playoff format. It's going to be a matter of evaluating it and we'll take a look at that in the off-season. Down the road, I could see us going to be a best-of-three or even longer but that's later on and overall I think everyone is pleased with this format."
Everyone except for the Rush and their fans.
"It needs to be switched around to a full game," said Rush goalie Aaron Bold. "I may be saying that because we're on the short end of the stick but realistically that's not a way to win. But Calgary won and hats off to them."
"I've got a lot of empathy for the Edmonton fans," added Daniel. "They were on Cloud 9 at the end of regulation and 20 minutes later in real time their season had come crashing down. It's a hard way to lose."
It was a deep low though the season as a whole had plenty of highs, none bigger than the Rush setting a new NLL record for longest winning streak when they started the season 14-0. And in the midst of that record, the Rush also set a new NLL mark for the longest road winning streak - a stretch that reached 13 consecutive wins dating back to last season.
“The 13 straight road wins is special,” noted Keenan. “It is a testament to our team cohesion and chemistry. This group loves being together.”
The Rush broke numerous other records during the season, including two-time reigning NLL Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Rubisch topping his own league record for forced turnovers in a single-season setting the new mark at 61. Also on the record list were:
*The Rush set a record for the fastest five consecutive goals coming in just 90 seconds against Calgary in Game 2 of the West Division Finals.
*The Rush set new team records for wins (16) and home wins (9)
*The Rush tied a team record for road wins (7), tied a team record in shorthanded goals (9), and tied the team record for most goals in a quarter (8)
*The Rush set a new team record for largest margin of victory (11) in a 17-6 win over Colorado
*Mark Matthews broke Ryan Ward's team record for points in a season (78)
*Aaron Bold set team records for goaltender wins (15), minutes played (1,010), best goals-against average (8.73), save-percentage (.791), and total saves (558)
*Chris Corbeil set a new team record for shorthanded goals in a single season (5), and the Rush captain tied the team record for goals in a single season by a defenceman/transition (17)
*Jeremy Thompson broke his own team record for faceoff wins (235)