The Edmonton Rush (9-4) clinched a postseason berth and at least one home playoff game with a 17-10 road win over the Vancouver Stealth (4-9) on Saturday night to complete the weekend doubleheader sweep and stay atop the West Division.
“That is first on the checklist,” said Rush forward Robert Church. “Now hopefully we can get that bye. It is pretty much championship or bust for us, that is our mindset.”
The Rush improved to 9-4 with the win, good for top spot in the West Division. Colorado is second at 8-6 — and has also booked a playoff spot — while Vancouver (4-9) and Calgary (4-10) are in a fight for the final berth.
The Rush needed overtime to beat Vancouver 15-14 the night before in Edmonton to sweep the home-and-home series.
“I think we just got off to a better start,” Church said. “Their record may not show it, but they gave us a run for our money both games. They are a heck of a club.”
In the first game, Vancouver was ahead 7-3 at the half in the first game. And in Saturday’s rematch, it was 4-4 early in the second quarter before Edmonton seized control with four goals to lead 8-4 at the half.
The Stealth never got within three in the second half. Church led the way with nine points and he also led the team with five goals. He scored a couple of his early goals on long-distance bombs.
“When those are going in, you know it is probably going to be a good night for you,” he said.
Stealth coach Dan Perreault liked his team’s effort in both games, but it was the mistakes on Saturday night that hurt the team.
“We made quite a few mistakes,” he said. “We gave up three goals in the first half … where they are down to three or four seconds (on the shot clock) and we give them the shot. “We have to be aware of the shot, those goals kill you.”
Vancouver had 29 turnovers to Edmonton’s 18 and the loose ball battle also favored the Rush, 87-75.
A pair of lineup moves worked out for the Rush, according to head coach Derek Keenan as he inserted forwards Tyler Melnyk and Matthew Dinsdale into duty.
“We put two fresh bodies into the lineup which I thought helped us,” he said.
Dinsdale had two goals and an assist while Melnyk had a pair of assists.
Zack Greer (4+3) and Mark Matthews (2+5) also had big games for Edmonton. Jarret Davis (1+3) and Ben McIntosh (2+1) also had multi-point games. Aaron Bold stopped 35 shots for the win.
The Stealth were led by Corey Small (3+2), Logan Schuss (2+3) and Joel McCready (1+3). Tyler Digby (1+2), Rhys Duch (1+1) Ilija Gajic (1+0) and Cliff Smith (1+0) had the other goals.
Schuss, who lives nearby in Ladner, was making his home debut and said the team knows they are in a dogfight to make the playoffs.
“I don’t think it is that we weren’t prepared, that we weren’t trying, Edmonton is just a quality team,” he said. “I think it is just playing a little bit tighter on both ends. If we could score a couple of goals on offence to stop some of those runs, on defense, maybe get on their hands a little bit more.”
Schuss said the players know they have to get better and make the postseason and make the game work in Langley.
“The guys like being able to play close to home, with our friends and family in the stands,” he said. “We want to keep playing here.”
Edmonton faces Calgary in a home-and-home series next weekend while Vancouver hits the road for two games in three days: Friday in Toronto againt the league-leading Rock and Sunday in New England against the Black Wolves.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Robert Church
2) Zack Greer
3) Corey Small
By Gary Ahuja (@VanStealthBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Garrett James.