The Edmonton Rush (4-2) are now on a four-game winning streak after defeating the Colorado Mammoth (3-3) with a 13-7 home win on Sunday. The Mammoth, who averaged 17.5 goals per game coming into this weekend’s action, were held to just seven goals in both games against the Rush in Week 7.
“Our energy level was phenomenal right from the get-go and for a full 60 minutes,” said Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. “We never took our foot off the gas at all and when we play with that kind of energy on the defensive side of the ball, we’re pretty hard to play against. Considering we played the other night and we lost Chris Corbeil, our captain in the first two or three minutes of the game, it was a pretty good effort from our guys. Other guys stepped up.”
For Colorado, it was an uphill climb for the very beginning. After Edmonton got out to a 3-0 lead, the Mammoth never got closer.
“We ran into a really good defensive team and we didn’t take advantage of our chances,” said Mammoth coach Chris Gill. “When you do that against a great team, you’re going to get seven goals a game.”
After only scoring one second-half goal when these teams met on Friday night, Colorado’s offense struggled to get any quality scoring chances in the first half. Before they registered a shot on net, Edmonton already had 11. Ben McIntosh, Mark Matthews, and Robert Church started the Rush off with a 3-0 lead. John Grant, Jr. got Colorado on the board with a rocket through a screen from long range.
The second quarter wasn’t much better for the Mammoth in terms of scoring chances. Dillon Ward was the best player on the floor for the Mammoth, making some huge saves including one on Jeremy Thompson who ran in on a breakaway. Mark Matthews wired a shot on the power pay to regain Edmonton’s lead. Then, Zack Greer continued with his hot-streak scoring two goals 1:22 apart to make it 6-1 for Edmonton. Grant, Jr. scored a ridiculous goal, faking out every defender in sight, and Adam Jones scored one of the power-play to keep pace with the Rush who out-shot them 32-21 in the first.
Edmonton kept the pressure going with McIntosh scoring once again from the backdoor. The Mammoth got a second half goal much earlier than on Friday when Grant got his hat-trick goal on the power-play. The Rush had 47 shots after the third quarter with multiple multi-shot possessions. One of these possessions lead to Mark Matthews coming off the bench on a delayed penalty, scoring his hat trick goal.
It took Edmonton just ten seconds to score in the fourth quarter when Nik Bilic scored his first of the season right off of the face-off. Zack Greer scored his hat trick goal on Edmonton’s 50th shot of the game. This was Greer’s third straight game with three or more goals. The Rush continued with Jarrett Davis scoring from the back end. Looking to get something going offensively, the Mammoth pulled Ward for an extra attacker, though it backfired as Ryan Dilks shot the ball into an empty net. Adam Jones stopped the bleeding with his second of the game and got another from Sean Pollock, sticking with an extra attacker. Robert Church scored his second of the game and Creighton Reid scored for the Mammoth to get it back.
The Rush controlled the play from the very start with Colorado never getting their 5-on-5 offense going. Despite allowing 12 goals, Dillon Ward posted a .779 save percentage facing 59 shots on goal.
“He was our best player, and he has to be our best player every night,” Gill said. “I kinda feel bad for ‘Wardo’, because they came at him from all angles. They’re so dangerous offensively. To reward him with seven goals on the other end, it’s not very good. It kinda pisses me off to be honest.”
On the other side Aaron Bold allowed just seven goals on 46 shots, posting an outstanding .848 save percentage.
“It was a team effort all weekend,” Bold said. “We bought into our systems and having Keenan back in the dressing room is a big morale boost. I think our conditioning has come a long way. I think it was a lot better for us to bring the energy early in the game because we knew they’d be hungry for first place. It came down to who wanted it more and we outworked them today.”
Bold was quick to mention the role his defense played in keeping the ball out of the net.
“It’s arguably the best defense in the league and everybody boasts on it. They’re always there for me, and when they’re struggling, I try and pick up my game and it’s vice versa. It’s not just the Rubisch’s and Corbeil’s, it’s everybody. We have so much depth on the front as well as the back.”
After a big game Friday night where he put up seven points (4+3), Zack Greer came out strong again on Sunday, putting up six points (3+3). Robert Church was a silent threat for the Rush, tying Greer for the game lead with six points himself (2+4).
“This is the best I’ve seen [Greer] play since he’s been in the league,” Keenan said. “He’s playing with confidence, shooting the ball really well, mixing it up really well, and when he’s moving his feet and attacking, he’s very hard to stop.”
Jarrett Davis has also been an important player for the Rush, playing out both doors for the team on multiple occasions this season. Derek Keenan had nothing but good things about Davis who contributed in every dimension on Sunday.
“He was to me, player of the game,” he said. “Especially when ‘Corbs’ went down, we used him both ways. He’s all over the floor, plays all three zones, and he plays them hard. He makes plays and is one of our true leaders on this team that’s for sure.”
The Rush now sit alone atop the West Division and will wait until February 27 to play their next game against the Toronto Rock who currently have the best record in the NLL.
“Every bye has been welcome,” Keenan said. “Usually not, because the last one we had, we were rolling. We’re rolling now, but we’re banged up too so it’s welcomed. We have a lot of injuries on our back end that need to get better. We got four or five guys that are banged up, playing, it’s nothing that will keep them out, but we have to see how Corbeil is after X-rays. LaFontaine has been out all weekend with a hamstring injury.”
For Colorado, their next game comes next Sunday in Connecticut against the New England Black Wolves.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Zack Greer
2) Aaron Bold
3) Dillon Ward
By Mike Wilson (@RushBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Dale MacMillan.