Rush set to improve on goal scoring

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

The normal growing pains of an expansion franchise were exacerbated for the Edmonton Rush last year due to their lack of scoring punch.

So after notching only a 150 goals in 2006 - the lowest total in the National Lacrosse League - the Rush's off-season was spent bulking up on the offence so they could deliver some knockout blows in 2007 with a potent attack. While it takes time for an altered lineup to come together, there are those within the Rush who believe this new offensive could pay major dividends immediately this season.

"Who knows? It could be this year," said new Rush offensive threat Dan Stroup of a potential title run in '07.

"Once you get in the playoffs, it's just one game and you can move on."

Rush GM/head coach Paul Day certainly expects his offence to be far more dangerous this season, beginning with the arrival of Stroup and his former Colorado Mammoth teammate Chris Gill - two of the NLL's most proven goal-producers. But they won't be alone in generating the Rush offence.

Along with Stroup and Gill, the Rush acquired Ryan O'Connor from the Chicago Shamrox during the Expansion Draft of 2006 and his presence on the power play will greatly serve the Rush. Two other big trades should boost the Rush offence as well.

Day made a deal with the provincial rival Calgary Roughnecks that landed triggerman Jason Wulder and he snared A.J. Shannon from the Buffalo Bandits. The new faces combined with returning threats Jimmy Quinlan, Kevin Howard and Jamey Bowen have Rush fans expecting much more out of their club in '07 - especially plenty of success at goal scoring.

"We've made a huge improvement on the offensive end and this is a group that is going to create a lot of chances," noted Day. "They are also tough enough to fight tooth and nail for every goal we get in every game."

But along with offensive production, the new troops are expected to bring leadership and the experience of winning to a Rush roster in need of both.

"The team wasn't successful in terms of wins and losses last year and they went and looked to upgrade things," said Gill. "I think the goal for us is to take the first five games of the season and, if we can get two or three wins, we can go from there. I think we have the character to follow up on something like that, but it's going to be baby steps."

The Rush took their first baby steps in a pre-season game against the Roughnecks and, although they fell 19-16, there were certainly signs of improvement and optimism.

"Our power play is unreal," said Bowen, the Rush's leading scorer in 2006. "We had more one-touch goals tonight then we did all of last year."

Gill also liked what he saw out of his new team.

"We showed some character coming back from being down by eight," he said. "We have to be better, but the chemistry is there and the talent is there so all we have to do is put it all together. If we play hard some good things are going to happen."

The changes to the front end of the roster are going to have a dramatic effect on the Rush defence as well.

The Rush's defence, led by Captain Andrew Turner, is a year wiser and a year better having battled through many difficult nights in 2006. The group features 2006 NLL All-Star Game representative Cam Bergman, veteran Rob Williams and a tough twosome in Daryl Welsh and Buck Stobart.

"Last year there was so much pressure put on our defence and goaltending because we had to play so much defence, but we're going to be able to take the pressure off them this year because we'll have better ball possession and we'll score more goals," offered Day.

"We got banged up back there last year because we had to play too much on defence but that group got a year under its belt and a good year of experience."

Another new face to the Rush lineup this year is goaltender Kurtis Wagar who will back up starter Pat Campbell.


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