The top defense in the National Lacrosse League made a big statement against the number one offense on Friday night as the Edmonton Rush (3-2) edged the Colorado Mammoth (3-2) by a final of 11-7 before a crowd of 16,082 at Pepsi Center.
Edmonton blanked the Mammoth offense in the second half, and the win marks the fourth time Edmonton has won versus Colorado in the last five meetings.
“I thought we came out strong in the first half, battled hard, played our game,” Mammoth coach Chris Gill said. “The wheels fell off in the second half…for some reason we got a little bit tight. Dropping balls and making poor decisions offensively, in this league you can’t do that.”
Zach Greer (4+3) and Mark Matthews (4+1) highlighted the Rush offense on the evening. For Colorado, it was John Grant Jr. (2+3) and Alex Turner (2+0).
“Our second half defense was pretty solid,” Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan commented. “Our success usually starts at the back end.”
The two teams combined for four goals in the opening five minutes of the game. Mark Matthews tallied two early on for the Rush while Athan Iannucci and Alex Turner scored for Colorado to keep pace.
Colorado took advantage of a late two-man advantage to knot the game up at 3-3. In the second the teams each put two more on the scoreboard, but in the waning seconds of the half Colorado’s Joey Cupido sprinted down the field, picked up the pass and scored with 0.6 left on the clock to make it a 6-5 Mammoth lead at half.
The amped up home team and crowd would be short lived.
“You would have thought they would have had some momentum scoring that [Cupido] goal late, but we re-focused at halftime,” Keenan mentioned.
Edmonton was quick to respond coming out of the locker room by pocketing two scores in the first 1:45, courtesy of Greer and Robert Church, to regain the lead for good; Colorado meanwhile, a victim of a scoreless third quarter which stretched deep into the final stanza.
Both sides agreed their respective sides played valiantly in the first half, but the absence of Mammoth offense proved to be an ‘X’ factor. Aaron Bold was key in that defensive lockdown stopping 31 of 38 on the night.
Dillon Ward played opposite of Bold, finishing with 34 saves. Offensively Colorado was without Adam Jones, who was out of the lineup at game time and is unknown if the team’s leading goal scorer will be active Sunday.
“I think they missed him big time tonight. If he’s in the lineup Sunday, we have to be a lot better,” Keenan added.
Control of first place in the West Division is now set for round two. The clubs will quickly turn around and head to Alberta this Sunday afternoon, scheduled for 4 p.m. ET at Rexall Place in Edmonton.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Mark Matthews
2) Zack Greer
3) Aaron Bold
By Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Jack Dempsey.