What better way to end the National Lacrosse League season than by defeating the top team?
The Edmonton Rush edged the Washington Stealth 14-13 in Everett, Wash., Saturday night to close out their 2010 campaign and head into a bye week.
Coming on the heels of a 15-14 overtime loss at Rexall Place to the Calgary Roughnecks the night before, the weekend's double-header decided nothing as the top three teams in the West Division are still jousting for post-season positioning.
"We lost a heartbreaker (Friday) night and the guys were really pumped up (Saturday) night and ready to play but at the same time pretty relaxed," said Rush head coach Derek Keenan, whose squad jumped to a 4-1 lead in the opening quarter. "We came out really good and we just kind of hung on."
The Rush were outscored 10-7 in the second half as the Stealth out-shot the visitors 53-41.
"We ran out of gas there at the end, so it was a big win for us," Keenan said. "We came in and looked at this as an opportunity to get better against a team we might play in the playoffs, so it was a good effort."
The Stealth mounted a second-half comeback on the strength of six-goal outing by Lewis Ratcliff, who finished with eight points.
Washington took an 11-10 lead with three quick goals in the first minute-and-13 seconds of the fourth quarter, but Rush scoring leader Ryan Ward tied things up by answering with his hat-trick goal.
Rush forward Ryan Powelltook over, scoring the final two goals for his team to give his squad a 14-12 cushion they needed before Ratcliffe brought the final score within one.
"Definitely a huge win for the team," said Powell, who has come up with key late-game runs on more than one occasion in his first season with the Rush. "I think later on in the game is a time I want the ball on my stick. I was fortunate enough (Saturday) night to be able to find the back of the net a couple of times late again.
"But that's certainly a time that I like to step up and get the ball."
Although all eyes in the Rush camp will be on the Stealth and Roughnecks next week, Edmonton plans to make the most of their bye week and let the proverbial chips fall where they may.
"We've had a really tough three weeks where we played five games," Keenan said. "We're banged up, we're injured, we're tired, we travelled and we need a week off."
The Rush round off league play with identical 5-3 records at home and away.
"We're comfortable playing anywhere," said Keenan. "We played well on the road as of late and we've got a good group of guys who just seemed to jell well at the right time."
PLAYOFF SCENE: Having clinched a playoff berth, the Rush can clinch at least second place in the West Division and earn a home playoff game if the Roughnecks lose to the Colorado Mammoth next weekend.
If the Stealth lose to the Rochester Knighthawks in their last game, the Rush will take the divisional title.