PORTLAND -- The Edmonton Rush's season ended in familiar fashion - and it's a trend they hope will fade away faster than bell-bottom jeans and fluorescent T-shirts.
It was yet another game featuring flashes of promise for the future but frustration in the present. Mistakes, miscues and a stone-cold offence - everything that cursed the Rush all season was still there as their first year in the National Lacrosse League came to an end.
"That was pretty much a synopsis of our whole year," offered Jamey Bowen after his Rush were topped 11-7 by the LumberJax in front of a franchise-high crowd of 11,408 at the Rose Garden.
"Tight, close to till the end and then three goals and it's over. We're so close but we've got to be better."
The loss leaves the Rush (1-15) as only the fourth team in NLL history to finish a season with just a single win. Meanwhile, the victory gives the LumberJax (10-5) a guaranteed home playoff game and a shot at the West Division title when they play their regular-season finale tonight in Minnesota.
Bowen sparked the Rush with three goals and two assists to win the team scoring derby with 43 points - three more than Kevin Howard and four up on Jimmy Quinlan. The 36-year-old St. Francis Xavier high school teacher is hardly in his prime anymore but he's still got some game left in his hands if not his feet.
"I almost wanted to pull Paul aside and ask whether I should give a retirement speech or just keep quiet,"smiled Bowen. "I want to give it a go. There's nothing better than playing in Edmonton in a meaningful game and that's what I want to do."
It may also have been a final farewell to Rush goalie Dwight Maetche. And although he suffered the loss, the 46-year-old stopper was superb making 49 saves in perhaps the final appearance of a career that lasted nine NLL seasons.
"A lot of people on the outside may not see the strength of what is developing here but it's something from the inside that we feel good about," said Maetche.
The Jax opened up with a 2-0 lead in the first quarter but the period will be remembered for a Fight of the Year candidate. Jimmy Quinlan and Portland's Shawn Cable slugged it out behind the Rush net, each landing several big blows in a wild tilt that lasted over a minute.
Portland carried a 4-1 lead into the second half but Edmonton caught a break when both goaltenders were subjected to a random equipment check at the break. Dwight Maetche went back between the pipes for the Rush, but Jax starter Dallas Eliuk, the reigning NLL Defensive Player of the Week, was tossed out and rookie Aaron Bold was thrown into action.
After Mat Giles, Colin Sherbanuk and Quinlan were all robbed on close-in chances, Bowen finally beat Bold with a low rocket to cut the Jax's lead in half. Bold, however, stood his ground the rest of the way and let the Portland offence, particularly the power play, carry the load.
Bruce Alexander hit for a pair on the man-advantage and Peter Morgan added to his Rush-killer total of 18 points in three games against Edmonton with another power-play tally. Alexander's second, though, was a backbreaker and one which drew the ire of Rush head coach Paul Day.
"We were pretty resilient and got it down to a two-goal game and then the penalty on Quinlan - it was a horse... call," said Day. "I know I'll get fined by the league but I don't care. It was a terrible call by two veteran officials."