The Edmonton Rush (12-5) kept its momentum rolling heading into the NLL postseason with a 16-12 road win over the Minnesota Swarm (5-12) in front of a crowd of 8,013 at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night. The Rush have clinched the West and have won three consecutive games as they prepare for the playoffs as the division’s top seed.
“It’s a big win for us, we’ve still got an opportunity here to finish a little higher than we are right now,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan. “So we’re going to try and keep winning.”
“Our whole mindset going in was last time we played them, we gave up a big second half lead,” said Rush forward Robert Church. “Our mindset was just to play a full four quarters, that was our talk at halftime, just to keep going. I think we did that.”
The Rush opened the game with two goals and had the Swarm close on their heels for the entire first half. Rush forward Matthew Dinsdale (2+2) was the first to score for the Rush, followed by transition player Zack Greer (4+1). Swarm transition player Jordan MacIntosh (3+3) led his team in points and scored twice in the first quarter. Minnesota forward Miles Thompson (3+2) delivered a first half hat trick to help bring his team within one at the half.
“To compete with that team that’s looking to clinch first overall, you knew they were coming out, they were going to be hungry,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “They were coming out with no quit and we stayed with them, 8-7. Probably allowed more than we wanted to, but our goalies had a tough night and our defense had real tough night, so for us to be 8-7 at the half was okay.”
Edmonton took the one-goal lead into the third quarter, but a six-goal scoring run gave them a 14-7 lead going into the fourth. Rush forward Robert Church (3+4) scored three of the six goals in the team’s dominant quarter.
“I wasn’t very happy with my first half, I thought I didn’t get as many shots as I would have liked and wasn’t really generating any for the team,” Church said. “So I just tried going hard in the third quarter and I got open a couple times and I got lucky and buried my shots.”
“I think our third quarter was the key,” Keenan said. “I thought we were very dominant defensively and created a lot of turnovers and in turn gave us some transition opportunities. And we were real good on offense I thought too, for most of the night really.”
“Our defense didn’t turn them down the lanes, they allowed them to get across the top, which gave them a shot that makes your goalie guess left or right,” Sullivan said. “Any time that happens, you’re going to be in trouble. So they get six, we get none. Our sticks went cold, which typically happens when you’re starting to press and trying to make things happen. So the guys were trying to do a little bit too much offensively. Still, we go back into the fourth quarter and then they battled and got us back within probably a goal of us being able to pull our goalie and look for a six-on-five goal to pull us within a couple.”
Reminiscent of the last time the two teams met, Minnesota fought back to amend their scoreless third frame, but came up short in the loss. The Swarm had a 5-2 fourth quarter that was just shy of getting them into contention for the win.
“I thought they had really good push in the fourth quarter. And just typical Minnesota, they don’t stop playing ever,” Keenan said. “We learned that earlier in the year and we knew that was coming. They’re just so athletic and dynamic that they’re just going to stick with you for the entire time. The reality for them is they’re really not a 5-12 team. They had their best lineup tonight in awhile and they showed it.”
Back in Minnesota’s lineup on Saturday night was transition Jordan MacIntosh, who missed the last game due to a lower body injury. Defenseman Kiel Matisz (1+1) made his debut after missing the last several games due to an upper body injury.
“They both battled real real hard. Game shape is something they’ve got to get back into, but it was great to see them out there,” Sullivan said. “Nice having them both back in there, and they both had an immediate impact.”
“It felt good, the training staff helped me get back pretty quick and I felt good on the offensive end,” MacIntosh said. “Couple breakdowns defensively but I’m hoping to play a little bit better next week.”
Rookie forward Joe Maracle (1+1) scored his first career NLL goal in the final quarter, as a seemingly hopeful glimpse into the future of the young team.
“That’s huge. He’s done a really good job of coming every practice and working hard all year and he’s got rewarded these last couple games to get in,” MacIntosh said. “So to see him score is great. I think he’s one of those guys that’s going to be a future great player for this team if he keeps building.”
Rush goalie Tyler Carlson had 30 saves on 42 shots against his former team. Swarm goalies Zach Higgins and Brodie MacDonald split time in the effort; Higgins had 30 saves and MacDonald saved 10 shots from his former team. Both teams went 2-for-3 on the power play.
As the teams look forward to the final week of regular season play, they both have the future in mind. For the Swarm, it’s building the chemistry of their young team for next season. For the Rush, the focus is on getting the win as an advantage for their postseason run.
“Right now it’s just kind of building some of our team chemistry for next year. We have some new guys in and kind of getting them acclimated to playing in the NLL,” MacIntosh said. “It wasn’t our best defensive performance. But I thought offensively we’re starting to come together and some of those new guys are starting to put the ball in the net, which is what we want to do right now. Tough outcome, but I think we’re building towards next year.”
“We need some help to finish first overall. Depending on if we were fortunate enough to make it to the league final and depending on who we’re playing, we could still have home floor,” Keenan said. “So we’re still kicking on that door and we only have five losses, same as Rochester, and Toronto with four. So we’ve still got some things to play for.”
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Robert Church
2) Zack Greer
3) Miles Thompson
Next week, the Swarm will host the Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET while the Rush will head to Colorado for a 9 p.m. ET contest that night in the Week 18 finale weekend.
By Maria Jollie (@SwarmBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Scott Pierson.