The 2015 NLL Champion’s Cup Finals got off to a running start as the Edmonton Rush ran away with a 15-9 road win over the Toronto Rock in Game 1 on Saturday night. Before the series heads to Edmonton for Game 2 on Friday, read more about the opener by previewing Stephen Stamp’s recap below from IL Indoor on Inside Lacrosse.
“The 2015 Champion’s Cup Finals matches the two best teams from the regular season,” Stamp writes. “There wasn’t much question who was the better team in Game 1 Saturday as the Edmonton Rush ran away from the Toronto Rock to take a 15-9 win and establish control in the best of three series that continues next Friday in Edmonton.”
Toronto got off a fast start, scoring twice in the first 3:18 including a breakaway goal by Brock Sorensen. The Rush responded with five straight goals before the end of the first quarter, the last coming on a pinpoint breakout pass from goalie Aaron Bold to Jarrett Davis for a shorthanded marker in the final minute of play.
When Edmonton opened the second with a Riley Loewen goal, Toronto Head Coach John Lovell reached for the hook and pulled goalie Brandon Miller in favor of Nick Rose.
“I don’t think he makes the saves that Brandon normally makes when I pulled him the first time,” Lovell said after the game. “We got a little life from that, we kept them off the score sheet for a little while and got the score to 6-4 but then the ball started to go in again.”
It was 9-4 at half time and Miller returned to try to spark the Rush again, which worked for a while as Toronto outscored Edmonton 3-1 in the first eight minutes of the third quarter to pull within three goals. The Rock never were able to get closer than that, though. Robert Church broke the Toronto run with a goal just 19 seconds after Colin Doyle had capped the Rock’s three-goal burst.
After Kevin Crowley responded to that goal, the teams were quiet for a few minutes until Mark Matthews and Zack Greer connected on the goal of the game in the final minute of the quarter. Matthews had the ball outside the restraining line. Greer cut from the wing towards the net just above crease level. A Rock defender stayed right with him and was all over Greer as the ball arrived in the perfect spot; somehow Greer was able to catch the ball, keep his feet just outside the crease, throw a couple of fakes then tuck the ball into the corner before he fell.
“That was a big goal. They were kind of inching back,” said Edmonton Head Coach and GM Derek Keenan. “The plan is the plan, but guys still have to make plays. Tonight we had guys make plays.”
Keenan credited Bold with keeping the Rush ahead, particularly when Toronto created several good scoring chances in the second quarter.
“I don’t think we played our best D in that quarter and he made some huge saves for us and then we got some things going the other way.”
Bold said he was trying to be a bit more calm than he had been recently, “not necessarily reacting too too quick in terms of angle to angle. I felt a little bit more composed and I saw the ball and I was tracking it and I was stepping.”
The goalie credited the hard work of the 16 runners for Edmonton’s success in Game 1.
“Work ethic. 50/50 battles and just work ethic and determination,” he said. “We came in with a game plan of outworking them. They’re an older team, they’re very very talented, they’ve been in situations where they’re down a bit at half so they got back into it a bit. We had to steamroll just a little bit forward and were fortunate to do that. Take advantage of their slow transition a little bit and just keep on running. It caught up to them and we capitalized on transition and the opportunities we had.”
With the score 12-8 entering the fourth quarter, Edmonton’s high-tempo game seemed to have taken a toll on the Rock as the Rush scored the first three goals of the final frame to put the game out of reach. Continuing to follow that mindset will be the key to winning another game and earning the Rush’s first Champions Cup, Keenan said, because the Rock will come out firing next weekend.
“Just in terms of our compete, I thought we were hard tonight but we’ve got to be even harder next week because the stakes are even higher Friday night. We need to continue to try to play at a high tempo. That’s our style. We’ve got to continue that way next weekend in all areas of the game. That’s the key to our success.”
Outside the Rock dressing room…
Click here to find the full story by Stephen Stamp for IL Indoor on Inside Lacrosse. Photo by Graig Abel.