The Edmonton Rush played their best game of the season and still lost.
The optimist would say that things are looking up. A pessimist's perspective would be that the Rush are simply doomed.
Paul Day is one for the optimist's book. Of course, he has to be as the Rush's GM/head coach and Day is convinced that his team is headed in the right direction. Obviously at 0-6 there's nowhere to go but up, and after Saturday's 13-11 loss to the Toronto Rock, Day was surprisingly upbeat about the Rush's future.
"We played very well and I think this is a game to build off of," said Day. "Toronto is one of the best teams in the league and they were on a three-game roll but we matched them goal for goal and effort for effort. That was a real positive."
The schedule isn't any easier for the Rush as they head to Calgary Friday. After the all-star break, they must go through the weekends from hell as they play Colorado, San Jose and Arizona twice with three of the four games on the road.
At the least, the optimism is contagious.
"We think each game we're getting better," said the Rush's Darren Hillier.
He's at least partly right. The Rush haven't made the best use of their speed, but it was almost at full pace against the Rock and resulted in a handful of goals in quick transition. Edmonton's power play looked somewhat alive and their usual standard bearers - defence and goaltending - were strengths. In fact, goaltender Pat Campbell may have had his best game of the season with the array of saves he made.
But even after all those pluses came out of the game against the Rock that gosh-darnit zero is still standing in the win column.
"I don't know if we feel desperate, but there's just this feeling that we have to get it done," said Rush forward Randy Daly, who admitted things have changed for the good since planning post-game parties took a back seat to planning out game strategies.
"If I knew why we were still losing, I think we would have won already. I just don't know. The fans and the ownership have stuck with us so we owe it to them and specifically for ourselves. We need it."
STRANGE SITUATION: Mat Giles overcame any jitters he had about facing his former team during the warm-up. Giles was traded by the Rock to the Rush on Wednesday and then had to play his ex-teammates three nights later. He also went from a team that is now the hottest in the NLL and on target to defend the Champion's Cup to the cellar-dwellers who are miles from a playoff spot.
"There's no quit on this team," said Giles. "They're a good, experienced team that kept coming back but we had still some opportunities to beat them."
SWEET HOMECOMING: Blaine Manning had a fan club of about 25 members as the Sherwood Park product played his first pro game in the same arena where he cheered on the Edmonton Oilers as a kid.
"It was awesome. I came out to the building early and checked out all the banners," said Manning.
Manning notched his second career 10-point night when the Rock and Rush hooked up two weeks in Toronto, but was held to just a pair of points Saturday. He credited the Rush with stepping up their game against a weary but veteran Rock squad.
"We were a pretty beat-up team and they ran the hell out of us," said the two-time all-star. "They executed their game plan better, but this game, I think our experience let us stick around and then we buried our chances when we needed to. You can chalk up this win to experience."