The Rush to improve

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

There's plenty of optimism for the Edmonton Rush heading into their second National Lacrosse League season.

After an inaugural 1-15 campaign, there's nowhere for the team to go but up.

"I think in our first year we were in a lot of games," said Rush head coach and general manager Paul Day.

"Then heading into the fourth quarter we lacked a lot of experience. We also lacked a lot of experience on the powerplay and goal scoring department."

Lack of experience and goal scoring were the two common themes which plagued the Rush last season.

Of their 15 losses, only three were by more than four goals. The Rush were competitive in most of their games. They were in positions to win, but couldn't find that extra goal when they needed to.

That's something experienced teams are able to do.

"We made a commitment this summer to go out and get some experience, get some goals and get some guys that already have chemistry together, whether they played in Toronto, Vancouver or in the summer league together," Day said.

"And that's really what we accomplished."

In Chris Gill, Dan Stroup, Ryan O'Connor, Jason Wulder and A.J. Shannon, the Rush acquired players who can put the ball in the net.

Last season the team scored league-low 150 goals. The five newcomers combined for 88 goals.

"We're much improved on the offensive end and with leadership and experience and I think that will turn into wins for us," Day said.

"We have 11 new bodies out of 23, so it's a completely different lineup and a completely different environment than it was last year."

The Rush hope it's a winning environment.

The youth movement undertaken last year has made way for an older, more experienced group this year.

The players the Rush brought have won championships in the past and the hope is for them to gel together with the incumbents for victories this season.

"We made sure when we were making some trades this summer that the guys we were bringing in were not only good players, but had some chemistry with our other players," Day said.

"Because the pre-season is so short, there is not a lot of time to build that.

"It's a change from last year where we as a group were still evaluating talent and the young guys were still trying to make an impression right into January."

Playing four of their first five, and seven of their first nine games at home should aid in the pursuit of victories. But Day is not ready to declare their home dates must-win encounters just yet.

"When you're coming off a 1-15 season, playing some home games can really help us," Day said.

"But you're just hoping to improve. Our short-term goal is to just win that first game and then win your second game and so on."

Expectations are higher this season for all involved.

But realistically it's not going to take much to improve on last year's record. And nobody is pegging the Rush to go out and win a championship just yet.

"I don't think we're feeling the weight of the world right now," Day said.

"As a coach and a player, you want to win every night. But coming off a 1-15 season, I don't think we feel any pressure to win."

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37, PAT CAMPBELL (GOALTENDER)

6'1, 200 lbs.

Born: April 28, 1977

Hometown: Hamilton, Ont.

Last year's team: Edmonton Rush

50, KURTIS WAGAR (G)

6'0 225 lbs.

Born: November 5, 1985

Hometown: St. Catharines, Ont.

Last year's team: None

7, MAC ALLEN (DEFENCE)

6'2, 200 lbs.

Born: June 7, 1985

Hometown: Lennoxville, Ont.

Last year's team: None

6, CAM BERGMAN (D)

5'10, 170 lbs.

Born: January 14, 1983

Hometown: Coquitlam, B.C.

Last year's team: None

43, RORY GLAVES (D)

6'0, 195 lbs.

Born: January 13, 1982

Hometown: Niagara Falls, Ont.

Last year's team: None

21, DARREN HILLIER (D)

5'11, 180 lbs.

Born: September 10, 1979

Hometown: Edmonton

Last year's team: Edmonton Rush

44, CHRIS MCELROY (D)

6'1, 180 lbs.

Born: May 19, 1982

Hometown: Orillia, Ont.

Last year's team: Edmonton Rush

19, CORY MELVILLE (D)

5'11, 170 lbs.

Born: April 3, 1985

Hometown: Victoria, B.C.

Last year's team: Edmonton Rush

11, JAMIE ROY (D)

5'11, 185 lbs.

Born: August 27, 1980

Hometown: Nanaimo, B.C.

Last year's team: None

29, BUCK STOBART (D)

6'4, 240 lbs.

Born: March 17, 1983

Hometown: Victoria, B.C.

Last year's team: Edmonton Rush

26, ANDREW TURNER (C), (D)

6'1, 195 lbs.

Born: January 11, 1978

Hometown: Beamsville, Ont.

Last year's team: Edmonton Rush

14, RYAN O'CONNOR (F)

6'0, 185 lbs.

Born: September 18, 1978

Hometown: New Westminster, B.C.

Last year's team: Rochester


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