Not exactly a playoff Rush

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:31 AM ET

Lacrosse isn't a race.

Although, the Edmonton Rush wouldn't have minded a little bit quicker entry into their inaugural post-season berth.

While it has taken the squad five years, the 2010 edition resembles little of its predecessors.

"It has been a long time coming, but the time has come and it's great for our organization," said Rush president Gord Sawyer, who watched his team finish last year with an NLL-worst 5-11 record.

A year later, the Rush challenged for first place in the West Division with a 10-6 record. Only a tie-breaker with the defending-champion Calgary Roughnecks, also 10-6, bumped them into third place.

"It's a huge step," Sawyer said. "Unfortunately we picked a year to have a great record where there's great parity in our division amongst the upper echelon and we weren't able to garner a home playoff date for the opening round."

Instead, they'll be heading to Calgary on Saturday for a 1 p.m. start, but they're not exactly going in as underdogs.

"We're both so evenly matched," Sawyer said. "They are the defending world champions, however, we have shown a penchant to play them very well.

"They were lucky to escape with that overtime win here a couple weeks ago."

It's fitting that the Rush's first playoff appearance comes against the Roughnecks -- the first team they ever beat, winning 12-11 on the road on Feb. 17, 2006.

And they'll be back a little more than four years later looking for their first playoff win.

Since that first season, Sawyer said the rivalry has evolved into something sports fans in Alberta have come to expect.

"Even from the get-go, it really has developed into a genuine Battle of Alberta. These teams don't really like each other and they illustrate it when they play each other, it's a very physical game.

"There's a mutual respect but the reality is we don't like them very much and we want to knock them off in their home barn."

Regardless of how deep the Rush rally in these playoffs, just being there is an important step for the not-so-fledgling organization.

"It augurs well for the future for the franchise in Edmonton as well, with the interest that's being shown around our team right now," Sawyer said. "Even if we go on a good playoff run despite not having a home playoff game, we'll be able to sell more tickets and create more excitement."

That's already become apparent at the gates during the regular season.

"Paid attendance is up and that's the key figure," Sawyer said. "That's what you need to survive and to thrive in any franchise.

"It hasn't happened as fast as we'd like it to happen. Having said that, people are talking about us more, the press is getting more involved in our team. The future looks really well."

The club is already forecasting an increase in season ticket sales for next year.


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