Playoff date for Rush

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:59 AM ET

As the best team in the National Lacrosse League, the Washington Stealth were expected to provide a true measure of how far the Edmonton Rush have come this season.

The Stealth beat the Rush by eight goals earlier this year, then ran off a a league-best nine victories.

But on Friday night at Rexall Place, the Rush showed they are very much a league contender themselves, pulling out a thrilling 14-13 overtime victory to clinch the franchise’s first-ever playoff berth.

“It was a bit of a bizarre game; there were 20 goals in the first half and you don’t really see that,” said Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan.

“But I didn’t expect it to end up 21-20, either. I knew both teams would regroup defensively. They did a better job of shutting down our transition game and we did a better job defending them five-on-five. It feels great to get the win. We are now officially in the playoffs and have an opportunity to move up in the standings.”

Ryan Powell scored the overtime winner, cutting to the middle of the floor and firing a shot over the glove of Stealth goaltender Tyler Richards 6:07 into the extra frame.

Powell scored Edmonton’s final three goals, including a pair to tie the game twice late in the fourth quarter.

“As a player you thrive on those situations,” Powell said. “I’m the type of player that wants the ball on my stick in that situation, and I got it. It was a nice steal by Gavin Prout, who got me a couple of steps and I got a good shooting lane.

“My previous two goals, I beat the goalie underneath his glove, so I figured he would be guessing down in that corner. Sure enough, he was dropping his hand down there and left the top right corner open and I buried it.”

The shooters were on display early, as the goals came fast and furious in the first half with the teams swapping them like trading cards through the en route to knotting the score 10-10 at the half.

Prout, with three, Brodie Merrill, Corey Small and Dane Stevens each with a pair, and Andy Secore scored for the Rush.

Lewis Ratcliff with four, Kory Kowalyk and Cam Sedwick, with two each, Duch and Joel Dalgarno countered for the Stealth.

“We made way too many mistakes,” said Stealth head coach Chris Hill. “We were horrible in the first five minutes of the game. That was one of our main focuses coming in, that we’d be ready to play in the first five minutes.

“We’ve been making a lot of awful mistakes in our play that have been costly to us.”

Things tightened up considerably in the third quarter as the goaltending and defence improved.

The win improved the Rush’s record to 8-4 on the season. Edmonton is in Minnesota to face the Swarm tonight.

“We’ve beaten every team in our division now and just beat a team that throttled us in the first game of our season,” Keenan said.

“I think we’ve proven that we can beat any team in the league now. But we’re not satisfied — we have a lot of work ahead of us and higher goals to get to.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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