Chemistry lesson

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

DENVER, Colorado -- It's easy to forget where Ryan O'Connor came from.

Chris Gill and Dan Stroup got all the attention when the Edmonton Rush made a deal with the expansion Chicago Shamrox this off-season.

O'Connor was the third player acquired in the trade from the Shamrox. And quietly, he's beginning to make a name for himself this season.

"He's got a lot of experience," said Rush head coach and general manager Paul Day. "He played in Toronto with Gill and Stroup and he played in Vancouver with Gill and Stroup. He's a guy that we knew had some chemistry with those guys, which was huge, because offensively there is not a lot of time to develop that chemistry."

O'Connor, 28, is a nine-year National Lacrosse League veteran.

He was taken by the Shamrox in last year's expansion draft - plucked off the Rochester Knighthawks roster - then traded to the Rush with Gill and Stroup for Mat Giles, Jason Clark and a 12th-round pick.

Heading into tonight's contest against the Colorado Mammoth at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, the St. Catharines, Ont., resident has two goals and seven assists in three games.

"We definitely needed to add some speed and he's a pretty good playmaker," Day said. "He's a guy that I had in Rochester. He wasn't very happy there. He wasn't playing a lot, and I knew it was going to be a good opportunity for him and it was kind of what we were looking for, some speed coming out of the front door."

O'Connor suited up for only seven games last season with the Knighthawks. In three games this season, he's already just two points shy of last's year's totals.

"I'm really enjoying it in Edmonton," O'Connor said. "I played with Gill and Stroup a fair bit, so it wasn't a big transition for me to play with those guys again.

"But there's a few new faces that I haven't played with before, so there's always a bit of chemistry that you have to work out. But I think we're going to come together and win at important times."

Winning is something the Rush did not do a lot of last season. They matched last year's win total by defeating the Philadelphia Wings on opening night.

O'Connor was one of a number of veterans brought in this year by the Rush to become more competitive.

"I knew there was a good management group in Edmonton and they had a good, young team," O'Connor said. "The coaching staff did a great job in the off-season to bring in some older guys, some veteran guys to lead this team. I think it's going to be a good team."

There's still work to do. The Rush head into tonight's game against the defending NLL champions on a two-game slide.

If an upset is in the cards, they'll need a big performance from all their veterans, including O'Connor.

"So far, I think he's created and moved the ball very well, especially on the power play," Day said. "He's a great outside shooter and that's the big thing. He's got to get his outside shooting going.

When he gets his shooting going, he's very effective. I think he still doesn't have his outside shot going yet, but that will come as the year goes on. It's a threat that we definitely need."

O'Connor's ability to score should lessen the attention currently paid to Gill and Stroup, who have had defenders draped all over them through the first three games of the season.

"I think I should be putting the ball in the net a bit more," O'Connor said. "But everybody's got a role. There are certain guys that are paid on this team to put the ball in the net and certain guys that are paid to give them the ball. Personally, I don't care about points as long as we get the wins."


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