Rush backup comes up large

GERRY MODDEJONGE, EQMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:33 PM ET

EDMONTON - Sometimes you have to back up to move ahead.

The Edmonton Rush relied on backup goalie Brandon Atherton not once, but twice, last weekend to claim a pair of victories which moves them into a tie for the overall lead in the National Lacrosse League.

Atherton was called upon midway through both games in similar situations that ended up with the same result victory in overtime as the Rush edged the Washington Stealth at Rexall Place last Friday before doing the same to the Swarm in Minnesota the following night.

Im always ready to rock n roll. Thats part of my game, especially being a backup goaltender in this league, said Atherton, a four-year NLLer, who is a general tradesman with B.C. Hydro when hes not playing lacrosse. Its pretty much a jack-of-all-trades kind of job.

And its eerily similar to what he does with the Rush, who call upon him in any given situation to get the job done.

Its what I do, I just show up and work hard, said Atherton, who came in late in the second quarter and stopped 32 of 36 against the Stealth to earn his first NLL win in a 14-13 decision.

I had a feeling it was building up to (a goaltender change), he said. The game was pretty wide open up to that point. Both teams were running the floor really well and getting a lot of chances. We werent giving (starter Matt) Disher too much help. He was playing alright but the floor was too wide open.

It seemed like after I got in there it was a nice change of pace.

But nothing changed the next night against the Swarm, which must have used the same stats sheet as a template a 13-12 overtime win for the Rush.

We definitely came out a little bit heavy-footed from the night before, said Atherton, who stopped 34 of 38 shots. As the game went on we got our feet back under us and we started shutting it down in our own end and it really gave our offence a chance to come back and give us some high-flying excitement.

It doesnt get any more exciting that going into sudden death with first place on the line.

Weve got three overtime wins now. We dont want to get too used to going into overtime, but it seems like were rolling when were getting into those kinds of games, Atherton said.

Even without extra time, the Rush have had their share of one-goal games, which they have came out on top of in five of their nine victories.

The nice part about the whole scenario is that we have a lot of confidence in Brandon Atherton now, said Rush head coach Derek Keenan. To be honest, there was a lot of uncertainty there because he hadnt played a lot of minutes in the National Lacrosse League.

Were now in a position where we have confidence in him and he could potentially start.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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