The Edmonton Rush (8-4) will look to stay hot this weekend with back-to-back games against the Vancouver Stealth (4-8). After Edmonton’s 16-15 overtime win on Friday via Zack Greer’s deep game-winner, the rematch will be played in Vancouver at Langley Events Centre on Saturday live on TSN 3 & TSN GO (Canada) and WatchESPN (U.S.) at 10 p.m. ET.
With a win, the Rush can secure a playoff spot, but to Greer, much bigger goals lay ahead.
“It’s the first step in a long process,” he told NLL.com’s Mike Wilson after last night’s win. “Our ultimate goal here is a Champion’s Cup at the end of the year. It’s the first step in the right direction, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot other than that.”
The Rush have won its last four games. Prior to the win against the Stealth, the Rush beat up the Knighthawks, 16-3.
“We need to try to continue to play as we have,” said Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. “And these division matchups are of course that much more important in a home-and-home. We like them this way, playing a home-and-home is very much a level playing field. We have to have our best every weekend to continue to play well. I think our guys got a clear understanding of that a few weeks ago when we took a bit of a step back, and since then we’ve been pretty dialed in and we look to continue that this weekend.”
Goaltender Aaron Bold, the NLL Player of the Month for March, continues to be amongst the top of the league at his position, as headed into the weekend he was first in the league with a .793 save percentage. Bold stopped 31 of 34 shots last week, posting a .912 save percentage, a number most NHL goaltenders would be happy with. On Wednesday, Bold was asked if it has been a bit easier dealing with off-floor issues with his level of play being so high right now.
“Yeah, definitely. Having the support from not only from Derek, going through, well you know what he’s gone through, but definitely the team having my back on the floor and off the floor,” Bold said. “As far as only letting in three goals, it’s just trying to play five minutes at a time, and that’s what Derek stresses. Not to get too caught up in the outcome, but just play within the moment. Our defense played phenomenal and we played to the game plan that Derek supplied us with.”
Bold’s great numbers aside, it is indeed impressive for a defense to hold another team to just 34 shots, especially when their own team shoots the ball 64 times.
With the trade deadline passing on Tuesday, the Rush made a move to acquire Matthew Dinsdale from the Calgary Roughnecks for a third round pick in the 2015 NLL Draft. A transition player, Dinsdale was selected seventh overall by the Roughnecks in the 2012 draft, right before the Rush took Curtis Knight.
“We’re happy to have Marty,” Keenan said. “I mean he gives us some depth and a little bit of flexibility, given that he’s on a practice player contract. We like what he brings, he brings versatility, he’s got a lot of familiarity with guys on our roster, so we hope to get him an opportunity here coming up soon.”
A depth player could be very important in making a run at the Champion’s Cup. The Rush still have six games to play. The road to the Cup may see more games than ever played before, and injuries can happen in an instant. The Rush are healthy now, but it doesn’t take long for injuries to pile up.
The Rush can clinch a playoff berth with a win or a Calgary home loss to Colorado after the Roughnecks fell to the Mammoth in overtime on Friday.
The Stealth are hoping a major trade deadline move might spark the team as the regular season enters the stretch drive.
The club swapped offensive left-handed players, sending Johnny Powless to the Minnesota Swarm for a local boy in Ladner’s Logan Schuss, the reigning 2014 NLL Rookie of the Year. Before the trade, Schuss had 14 goals and 33 points with 44 loose balls in nine games this season while Powless had seven goals and 39 points in 11 games for Vancouver.
“It is definitely exciting being close to home and having the access to the facilities here and the guys,” Schuss said. “And be able to build some chemistry with the guys and get some workouts in.”
Because of work commitments in Vancouver, Schuss did not have that luxury. But with the trade, he was already able to participate in a shoot-around with some of his new teammates — as well as some familiar faces — the same day he was acquired by the Stealth..
After the loss to Edmonton weeks ago, Vancouver dropped both ends of a home-and-home series against the Colorado Mammoth, 14-11 at home and 12-6 in Denver. Last night’s loss means there’s pressure to perform.
“Huge weekend for us, Calgary is right on our heels,” said Stealth coach Dan Perreault.
“We know we are in regards to the standings and we know what has to be done,” Perreault said. “Concentrate on week at a time, and not worry about some of the negative stuff. Even if it is small steps, we have to improve each week and focus on that.”
He knows they will have their hands full against a Rush team which is coming off a few impressive wins.
“(Edmonton) sent a message last week around the league with what they can do,” Perreault said. “We are going to have our hands full and have to be real good for 60 minutes. They are an elite team and we are going to have be at our best.”
Schuss said the pressure to perform for a new team after the trade is no big thing.
“There is always a little pressure when you get dealt to a new team and are expected to perform,” he said. “But I definitely have been in a pressure role before, from college to junior to seniors, all ranks. You just have to take it how it is.”
Schuss said he knows there is talent on the Stealth roster and his job is to simply do his part.
“Just take it how it is and go with my best foot forward and do my best to help us win,” he said.
By Mike Wilson (@RushBeat) & Gary Ahuja (@VanStealthBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Dale MacMillan.