Rush reviews what could have been

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:12 PM ET

The wound is still fresh and the disappointment will carry on for some time.

Especially considering the Edmonton Rush came so close.

Friday's one-goal loss, on the road, to the Colorado Mammoth brought an end to another National Lacrosse League season for the Rush. Once again, they were unable to qualify for the playoffs.

"Obviously not making the playoffs really hurts," said Rush head coach and general manager Bob Hamley. "That was our goal and we're certainly disappointed that we didn't get there.

'BAD STRETCH'

"But we had a bad stretch. We started off 2-2 and then went 1-5 before we got into a little bit of a groove where we played much, much better. The last six games, we were really the team that we had expected to be throughout the season."

Had the Rush been able to beat the Mammoth on Friday, they still would have needed help in order to qualify for the post-season.

Regardless, the team made a valiant run, winning three of their last five games and dropping the other two by a combined three goals.

One of those losses was a 14-13 decision to the Calgary Roughnecks, who finished first in the division and are favoured to capture the league title this season.

"There was some improvement, this year," Hamley said. "I believe we have a better team now than we did last year at this time. But still, not making the playoffs is really disappointing."

Losing five of six through the middle portion of the season proved to be the ultimate downfall for the Rush this season. It started with a home loss to the East Division leading Buffalo Bandits, which was followed by lopsided road losses to the San Jose Stealth and Toronto Rock.

The Rush were able to get back in the win column with a strong performance at home against the Mammoth, but then fell to the Philadelphia Wings and hit rock bottom with an embarrassing defeat to the Roughnecks.

"You could look at a lot of things during that span," Hamley said. "A lot of people said we had a lot of changes and there's the theory that we finally gelled towards the end of the season.

"But we didn't get good goaltending through the bad stretch, which we all know is very important in lacrosse. We also weren't scoring goals. Even during our good stretch we had trouble scoring. Even (Friday) we just scored nine goals and if you only give up 10, you should win the game."

The Rush managed to turn things around when their backs were against the wall. But every time they were in a position to take control of their own destiny, were unable to come up with the big goal when they most needed it.

They went into the weekend as the lowest-scoring team in the league.

"That's something we're going to have to address in the off-season," Hamley said. "I think we're only a couple of players away from being a real, solid contender."

Despite finishing last in the division standings, the Rush went into the final weekend battling with three other teams for the final playoff spot.

In fact, the only team in the entire league without a chance to qualify for the playoffs going into the weekend was the Rock, who were officially eliminated from contention in the East the previous week.

"As a league, being that competitive is perfect," Hamley said. "It's hard on the coaches, but it's great for our game."

HIGH HOPES

Heading into the year hopes were high the Rush would be able to make the playoffs for the first time in their four-year history.

Hamley had taken over the club partway through last season and quickly went about putting his stamp on the side. They finished with one more win than last year.

"We really have a good group that really pulled for each other in the last six games and we got some really good goaltending from Chris Levis towards the end which was really important," said Hamley. "And we have two first-round picks this year and a pretty good second-round pick. So we'll have to do our homework, draft well and really try to shore up our offence."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos