For the second year in a row, the Edmonton Rush (11-5) will finish the regular season atop the NLL’s West Division after holding on against the Colorado Mammoth (9-8) for a 13-12 win in front of a loud home crowd at Northlands. Edmonton had a 13-6 lead going into the fourth quarter, and though Colorado made it close, the Mammoth couldn’t tie it up.
“We came to compete, and the guys did,” said Mammoth coach Dan Stroup. “The third (quarter) was a let down, but they battled back after a hard weekend. You never want to be happy with a loss, but the coaching staff is happy with the performance, and we never gave up.”
The Rush were happy to leave with the win, but know this game is another example of why they need to be more consistent going to the playoffs.
“We took the foot off the gas a little bit, and they kept pushing,” said Edmonton Head Coach and GM Derek Keenan. “A couple calls go the other way and they end up in your net, but we managed to get the win so that’s the key right? But we have to learn from that. We have to put sixty minutes together going forward here into the playoffs.”
“You have to give them credit- they didn’t stop playing. They played hard right until the end, and we let hem back in it. They outplayed us in the fourth quarter, and that’s on them too, they kept going.”
The game started with a high-octane pace. Jeremy Noble started the scoring for the Mammoth, but it didn’t take long for Ben McIntosh to tie it back up for Edmonton. Zack Greer gave Edmonton the lead, but Adam Jones took it right back. Greer proceeded to give Edmonton the lead, and then Jones took it away. Near the end of the first, Matthew Dinsdale found his way behind the Mammoth defense and made them pay with his fourth goal with the Rush. Edmonton led 4-3 at half-time, leading the shots 20-10.
Zack Greer kept rolling in the second which started with him scoring his third of the night. After that, he picked up the ball after Matthews bounced it off the boards to score a short handed goal, his fourth of the half. Next, it was Jones who scored on a goal that bounced off the post and down just past the goaline. Also in the second, Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward took a shot to the neck, and was replaced by rookie Alex Buque, though he quickly returned. The Rush took a 6-4 lead into halftime.
Mark Matthews took the baton in the third, scoring three goals in the first five minutes of the third quarter. His third marked his 46th goal of the year, and paired with 54 assists, he became the first player in franchise history, 15th in league history, and second youngest in league history to reach 100 points on the season. He added one more in the third to put him on top of the league goal scoring leaders with 47. After his third, Alex Buque returned to the game in relief of Ward.
“It’s kind of cool, but we still have a lot of work left,” said Matthews. “Two more games left in the year and hopefully a long playoff run in front of us. If I can get more points, if more guys get more points and we can win games, that’s really all that matters.”
Other members of the Rush helped to take a strong hold of the game. With goals from Church, and McIntosh (2), the Rush put 13 goals past the Mammoth after the third. Adam Jones scored his fifth of the game, to give Colorado six.
Colorado’s comeback bid in the fourth came on strong. Alex Buque shut out the Rush while his teammates scored six in the quarter, including two more from Adam Jones to give him seven on the night. The last of those Mammoth goals came from Drew Westervelt with 1:03 remaining, bringing them within one. Unfortunately for the Mammoth, they ran out of time to tie the game, and fell 13-12.
Adam Jones finished the game with eight points (7+1), with his seven goals tying a career high, to lead the Mammoth in scoring.
“Our offense was rolling tonight,” said Jones. “We were setting good picks, and we were getting open. Give credit to our offense just moving, and keeping the ball moving. I got a couple lucky ones, and that just seems to be the name of the game sometimes.”
“He’s an awesome lacrosse player,” said Stroup. “He’s a great player, and a good guy to have in your lineup.”
Jones was asked what made the difference for his squad between the third and the fourth quarter.
“I think we just needed to get some confidence. Our legs were a little heavy for the first half after playing last night. Once we got into the swing of things and got our confidence, we started to play a little bit better. Our goal for the weekend was to get better, and we did that.”
“The guys came out in the fourth and showed we can compete with any team,” said Stroup. “Going into the playoffs, it’s good for us to know we can play with anybody and beat anybody.”
Ben McIntosh (3-5), and Mark Matthews (4+4) led the Rush in scoring while Edmonton’s other big forwards Robert Church (1+6), and Zack Greer (4+2), also had big games.
“I think we’re hard to play against when we have everybody contributing,” said Keenan. “Those guys have been pretty consistent most of the year, but again I think we can be better.”
“We just have to move our feet and go hard,” said Matthews. “When we were going hard and going with speed we had a good third quarter there. When we’re standing around and watching them run by us on the defense in the fourth quarter they get some transition goals and get back in the game.”
The Rush have two games remaining, one next week against the Minnesota Swarm, and the finally against the Mammoth again, which is Colorado’s next and final match-up before the playoffs. Winning first place in the Western Division gives Edmonton a first round bye going into the playoffs, where they may once again see the Mammoth.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Mark Matthews
2) Adam Jones
3) Zack Greer
Story by Mike Wilson (@Rushbeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Dale MacMillan.