Crucial road trip looms

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:30 PM ET

Getting the first win is often considered the toughest.

But for the Edmonton Rush, earning their second and third victories of the season won't be a cakewalk either.

Tonight the Rush are in Portland to face the LumberJax (8:30 p.m.) in a rematch of last week's encounter at Rexall Place.

Tomorrow, they head to Colorado to take on the Mammoth (6 p.m.). Both games can be seen live on the National Lacrosse League website (NLL.com).

"There is a lot of parity in our league, especially in the West," said Rush head coach and general manager Bob Hamley. "The first two games of our season could have gone either way.

"Portland is probably pretty comfortable at home and it's probably going to be a game where the little battles have to be won. It's going to be a very good game."

MCNISH SCORED WINNER

Last Friday, Ryan McNish scored the winner with just under three minutes to play, giving the Rush an 11-10 victory over the LumberJax.

Goaltender Steve Dietrich preserved the victory, making an unbelievable save in the dying seconds of the contest.

The win improved the Rush's record to 1-1 on the season, having started the year with a 10-9 overtime loss in Calgary to the Roughnecks.

"Playing at home it was very important to get the win and we were very happy to be able to escape with a win in our home opener," Hamley said. "Both games we've played so far this season could have gone either way. It's important for us to try and go into Portland and try to come out with a win."

Offensively, the Rush were carried by forward Dan Teat, who leads the team with seven goals and four assists this season. He was supported by newcomer Ryan Benesch, who scored a pair of goals in his Rush debut, having been acquired in a trade with the Toronto Rock earlier in the week.

Benesch, 23, was the league's rookie of the year two seasons ago.

"Ryan Benesch might have been a little rusty as far as game shape goes, but we were very happy with his play," Hamley said. "Overall, we were very happy with his offence and we're very excited to have him in a Rush uniform. He'll be back in the lineup (tonight)."

Conversely, Portland goes into the contest with a 1-3 record, having already lost two games at home.

Apart from the one-goal defeat to Edmonton, the LumberJax also lost a close contest to Colorado last week in the first game of a home-and-home series between the teams.

"It was a real good lacrosse game last weekend, it could have gone either way and that's how it goes in our league," said LumberJax head coach Derek Keenan.

"Often, games turn out to be one-goal games.

"If you can limit your mistakes a little bit more and focus on that, I think you're going to win a few more of those games. Down the stretch last weekend, we made a couple of mistakes that cost us and they capitalized on them."

Following their game in Portland, the Rush will head to Colorado for a tough encounter against the Mammoth. It'll be a homecoming of sorts for Hamley who served as an assistant with the Mammoth before being hired by the Rush.

MAMMOTH TASK

The Mammoth have not played since Jan. 10 when they lost 14-5, at home, in the second game of the back-to-back series to the LumberJax.

"We've had the opportunity to go back and watch the film and analyze what happened," said Mammoth head coach Bob McMahon.

"The guys are very eager to get back at it and that's probably one of the negatives of having to wait an extra week to play. It was a very humbling and disappointing night that I don't think anyone on our team has really experienced before."


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