Smiling, not laughing satisfied

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

The Edmonton Rush finished the season playing in front of 14,790 fans Saturday.

They had hoped to sell out.

They finished fifth in the National Lacrosse League West Division. Their goal was at least fourth.

They had six wins - five more than their inaugural year. They needed eight.

"I guess you could say we're pleased with the progress, but we're definitely not satisfied," said Rush head coach and GM Paul Day.

'Not satisfied'

"Realistically, I think we left three games out there this season. It's a case of could've-would've-should've, but we're not satisfied."

Had the stars aligned, the lacrosse gods co-operated, and if team MVP Curtis Palidwor had made a few more big saves, the Rush could have been playing for a playoff spot on Saturday against the Calgary Roughnecks.

It would have been a situation the Rush organization could not have scripted any better themselves.

A one-game, winner-take-all encounter against their provincial rivals with the Edmonton Oilers having missed the NHL playoffs, leaving room under the spotlight.

They couldn't get the job done in Portland Friday night, rendering Saturday's game meaningless.

Biggest crowd

However, they were still able to draw their biggest crowd in franchise history.

"We thought we would sellout (Saturday)," said Rush president Duane Vienneau. "If it was for all the marbles to make the playoffs we had a good feeling about it.

"We're happy. We had five more wins than last year and it's a building process. Our attendance grew, our wins grew. So despite being a little disappointed, we're happy."

Compared to a 1-15 inaugural season, the Rush did take a large leap forward this year.

A key to that was bringing in quality veterans such as Chris Gill, Dan Stroup, Jason Wulder and Curtis Palidwor.

Gill finished as the team's leading scorer with 62 points. Stroup scored 29 goals. Wulder lead the team in assists. And Palidwor was named MVP, playing just 12 games.

'Unreal support'

"Right from the ownership to the support of the team was unreal," said Stroup. "It's a great city to play in and it showed (Saturday) with almost 15,000 fans.

"They knew we weren't going to make the playoffs and they still came out. I think next year we all want to do one thing for them, which is get in the playoffs and see how far we can go."

Heading into next season expectations are high. Another expansion team is expected to join the league - maybe two - suddenly turning the Rush into an established franchise.

"The third year of an new organization is always big," Day said. "This year was obviously huge to build on, but the third year - in Rochester was the year we won the championship - you really need to take the next step and make the playoffs."


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