Early season must-win for Rush

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

Two games down. Fourteen to go.

The Edmonton Rush have a lot of season left to salvage a rocky start, but not so much time that they can linger in lose mode.

Just because the Calgary Roughnecks, a top contender for the National Lacrosse League crown, are next on the schedule doesn't mean the Rush can afford another setback, especially a second loss on home turf.

"It's not too early to call this a must-win game," said the Rush's Darren Hillier.

The Roughnecks, who slipped past the Rush 11-9 last Friday, come calling at Rexall Place tomorrow night. If the Rush fall again, they'll drop to 0-3 and their season suddenly becomes an even more uphill battle to grab a playoff spot in the tight Western Division.

A win over Calgary, which they could have earned at the Saddledome, would take them beyond the status of merely being able to hang with the best the NLL has to offer.

"You have to play to win every night or it's over before it starts," said Hillier. "We need to start playing with more confidence in ourselves. We have to think we can win before the game begins.

"Sometimes I think we've read too many opinions from other people around the league who think that as an expansion club you're not for real. We disagree. We think we're a good team, but we have to start winning some games."

A better period here and a powerplay goal there and the Rush could really be 2-0. But they missed their chances and blew their opportunities.

"We're right there," said Rush defender Ted Jenner. "We just need to play a full four quarters and if we do, it will pay off. We seem to start well and finish well, but we need to play better in the middle."

Joining the Rush is giving Jenner his first taste of life in the City of Champions. He and the Rush will learn firsthand how a team with a pitiful record - expansion project or not - gets treated in these parts if they don't post a win soon.

"I see it here with the Canucks, too," laughed Jenner from his home in Victoria. "Everybody jumps off the bandwagon if they lose four or five in a row.

"We're playing hard and everybody is happy with the direction we're heading but we did get two quick losses and that hurts. We're fixing things and fine-tuning and hopefully the fans will stick with us."

While winning at the NLL level has been a chore, the Rush do have winners in the lineup. Jenner and seven teammates won the Mann Cup with the Victoria Shamrocks last summer and a handful of others have captured assorted titles in junior and senior.

There's a definite difference in calibre of play but the attitude of breeding success is the same.

"Everyone has to accept that they have to compete and if they do that for four quarters, we have just as good an opportunity as anyone else," said Rush head coach Paul Day.

"It has to be a team effort for us to win - not just leaving it up to one guy. We've been close enough to win and I believe we should be winning."


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