The Edmonton Rush (2-2) were quick to shake off an 0-2 start to the season, rebounding with back-to-back dominant victories. After scoring 16 on their rival Calgary Roughnecks to capture their first win of the season last week, the Rush trounced the visiting New England Black Wolves (2-2) at home by a score of 18-9 at Rexall Place on Friday night.
“We played with a lot more edge and we really took it too them in all areas of the floor,” aaid Rush GM & head coach Derek Keenan. “The game could have gone either way. They’re a scary team. I think they have a ton of speed and skill on offense and size. Aaron Bold made great saves and allowed us to keep that edge and we really ran away with it in the fourth quarter, especially with our defense and transition game.”
Black Wolves head coach Blane Harrison would be the first guy to agree with Keenan on the way the game went. When asked about the areas his team needed to be better, there was little that didn’t make the list.
“I think in all areas of the game from my perspectivem,” Harrison said. “Defensively we lost our composure as the game went on and we jumped out of our system that we were trying to play and give up shots from the outside and take away the creases. And we didn’t anchor the crease. Transition wise, I think we gave up too many transition goals and the disappointing thing there is we actually worked on that so to give up that many transition goals is really disappointing. Offensively, missing Quinn Powless, he was a big body on the right side who created a lot of room for Kevin Crowley and Kyle Buchanan. Missing him with an injury is really hurting the right side.”
New England forward Kevin Crowley who led his team in scoring with four points (2+2), was just as enthusiastic about the game as his head coach.
“I really got to tip my hat to that Edmonton defense that we played tonight,” he said. “They were just better than us overall. They won ground balls, they stopped what we were trying to do. We didn’t adapt well enough and that’s why the score was the way it was.”
The Rush started the game off with full control. Ben McIntosh started the scoring in transition four and a half minutes in. Mark Matthews then made it 2-0 sneaking down low and placing the ball into the net from the short side. McIntosh and Greer added two more and Edmonton led 4-0 after one.
New England’s offense picked up a bit in the seconds after a stagnant first. Patrick Saunders got the Black Wolves on the board with an outside shot, but it didn’t take long for Jarrett Davis to score in transition. Their rapport continued when Saunders beat Davis to make it 5-2.
The Black Wolves drew closer when Sheldon Burns beat Mark Matthews in a race going back into the Edmonton zone and beat Aaron Bold shot handed. The teams continued to trade goals with Crowley scoring for New England and Matthews potting two for Edmonton. Every goal that made up Matthews’ first half hat-trick came from the same spot on the lower right side. Chris Corbeil capped of the first half scoring with his second of the year on a shot that bounced off of the post, off of Evan Kirk’s back and into the net. Edmonton went into the half with an 8-4 lead.
The Black Wolves were not ready to give up as Kevin Buchanan scored 11 seconds into the half, though the Rush quickly answered with Ben McIntosh’s hat-trick goal. His forth didn’t come long after as the Rush executed a quick change and a long bomb that left him all alone in the New England zone and made no mistake. Mark Matthews then scored his fourth of the night on the powerplay to make it 11-5 for Edmonton. Mark Cockerton and Kevin Crowley scored with Crowley’s goal coming on a 5-on-3 man advantage to keep New England in the game.
Jeremy Lincoln scored their third in a row shooting off of a screen to cut the lead back down to 3. Matthews went back and increased that lead with his fifth of the game. Another back and forth was initiated with Brett Manney scoring in transition to end the quarter. Nine goals were scored in the third with the Black Wolves shortening their four-goal deficit down to three.
New England’s offense and transition were far improved after the first quarter but couldn’t dig themselves of the hole they were in. The fourth saw Jeremy Thompson score his first goal of the season and Mark Matthews complete the “sock-trick” with his sixth of the night. Cory Conway and Zack Greer scored back to back as Edmonton ran away with the game. Kirk was pulled in favor of Tye Belanger after the Rush scored 16, but the results didn’t change as Greer scored twice more back to back to complete his hat-trick and then some. It was a high-flying night from the Edmonton offense who tied the franchise record for most goals scored in a game.
This is Edmonton’s second win in as many game with Keenan back behind the bench. What does he think the difference has been with the team?
“I think the biggest thing honestly is they relaxed,” Keenan said. “I think in a way they were trying too hard and I believe that and I think they would agree with you. They were kind of squeezing it and really trying hard for me and my family and sometimes that doesn’t work. They’re playing relaxed and having fun, but also playing hard. They have been from the beginning but to go out there with confidence is a big part of the success.”
Both Ben McIntosh (4+4) and Mark Matthews (6+2) tallied eight points in the winning effort while Aaron Bold stood tall in goal by posting a .800 save percentage.
When it comes to last year’s first overall pick, the praise so far this season is never ending.
“Ben has been as advertised,” Keenan said. “He obviously is a great goal scorer but I think he has a lot of other parts to his game that he doesn’t get credit for. He’s a very good athlete, hes a very good play-maker, he’s responsible out there on transition and defense, he’s been great for us. He seems to get better every game. More confident within our offensive system, more confident with the guys he’s playing with.”
“He’s just an unbelievable player,” said Matthews, who was the game’s first star. “He finds a hole and shoots the ball as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. When he’s playing well and finding those areas and we can get him the ball…we’re in good shape.”
“I think these guys are easy to play with,” McIntosh said. “I’ve played with a lot of them so the transition is easier. These guys move the ball so well and they’re so talented, it’s easy to fit in with them.”
McIntosh sits second on the team with 11 goals, most of them coming on down low on the crease. The next step for McIntosh? Working on his outside game.
“I think inside, I seem to be able to put the ball in the net. But from the outside, I seem to struggle a little bit. I think if I continue to work on that, I can open up everything.”
For the Black Wolves, it’s back to the drawing board, but not the end of the world.
“We’re not pushing the panic button yet, but it’s certainly back to square one,” said Harrison. “We gotta regroup, we have a weekend where we’re going to get to go away and practice for a couple times over the weekend and get it back together.”
“It’s early in the season, only four games in and we’re a young team, we’re going to bounce back,” Crowley said. “I have faith in the character of the locker room and the unity of the guys that we’re going to come out after this week and bring a great product.”
New England might have to do so without one of its emerging rookies. According to Blane Harrison, it is likely that Quinn Powless is out for the rest of the season.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Mark Matthews
2) Ben McIntosh
3) Zack Greer
Story by Mike Wilson (@RushBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Dale MacMillan.