EDMONTON - At first glace it looked like Highway 2 robbery — goaltender Matt Disher stealing a game for a team outchanced, outshot and outplayed in their playoff debut.
But upon further inspection, the Edmonton Rush played the perfect road game, knocked off the defending National Lacrosse League champions and booked themselves a place in the league semifinal.
“Matt was really good, but we did a good job of keeping their shots mostly to the perimeter,” said Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan. “We didn’t give them a lot inside, and when we did, he came up with some really good saves.
“He did a great job of stopping those inside shots, but our guys did a good job of letting him see the ball and usually when Dish can see it, he’s going to make a lot of saves, so that was kind of the key.”
The Rush were outshot 67-37 by the Calgary Roughnecks on the weekend, but came away with an 11-7 victory. The win put them in the NLL semifinal this Saturday in Seattle against the Washington Stealth. The winner of that game will play either Toronto Rock or Orlando Titans in the Champions Cup final.
“We wanted to keep things outside on the perimeter and not let them beat us in a three-man game especially with (Josh) Sanderson and (Dane) Dobbie, (Tracey) Kelusky and (Kaleb) Toth,” Keenan said. “Those are guys that have hurt us in the past and I think we did a really good job on those guys, we really kept them to the outside.
“I thought Bruce Alexander did a great job on Sanderson, he really kept him to the outside and we had some other guys on the floor taking care of the right side, so it was a really good, team defensive effort.”
At the other end, the Rush went quality over quantity.
They scored three goals on nine shots in the first quarter to take control of the contest and never relinquished the lead.
“We had quality shots,” Keenan said. “I thought overall we had better quality shots and we executed well. We shot the ball well, and took advantage of our opportunities. We were three-for-three on the power play. Although that’s not a lot of goals, they were three really big goals when you look at the big picture. It was good execution by our offence.”
“They played pretty good pressure defence, so you have to be assertive. You can’t sit back and let them do that to you, but at the same time there are certain areas of the floor you want to have the ball and there are certain
areas of the floor you don’t want to have the ball at specific times in your possession and we did a good job of having the ball a the right time in the right areas.”
Overall, it was a great result for a team that failed to make the playoffs in their first four years of existence.
It was a much-needed outcome.
“A lot of people have said that it’s the first time the team has been in the playoffs, but we have a lot of experience on our team,” Keenan said. “We have two rookies that play regularly, (Corey) Small and (Brett) Mydske, but
everybody else is a pretty experienced group. It’s not the first time they’ve been in that situation.”
And as had been the case most of the season, when things got tight, the Rush were able to rise to the challenge.
“We were pretty poised, I thought we really kept or composure for most of the game, especially in the fourth quarter when they got the two right away to get within a goal,” Keenan said. “A less experienced team might have
really unraveled at that point, but we didn’t, we held it together, and we ended up having a good fourth quarter.”