Rush sniper ready for Stealth

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

As the team's leading scorer, Ryan Ward was expecting a lot of attention heading into the National Lacrosse League playoffs.

In the first round against the Calgary Roughnecks, he got it.

However, instead of forcing the issue, the Edmonton Rush forward simply shared the wealth, finishing the game with a goal and eight assists as his team advanced to the league semifinal against the Washington Stealth Saturday in Seattle.

"They did a really good job of taking away his shooting lanes, so he was real good at swinging the ball to the other side of the floor and really, our left side did the most damage on the night," said Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan.

"He did a really good job of finding open guys on the other side of the floor."

Ward was in on nine of Edmonton's 11 goals in the victory over the Roughnecks. That was a season high for Ward, who finished the year with 31 goals and 43 assists for 74 points.

"I don't think I did anything exceptional," Ward said. "I had a couple of nice passes, but I think their game plan was to shut down our right side and get in our shooting lanes and try to limit our right side from producing."

Heading into the contest, Ward expected the Roughnecks to keep close tabs on him. The Rush attack usually starts with the seven-year veteran on the right side.

"We started with the ball and I made it look like I was going to go to the cage, then swung the ball out to the lefties, who were getting a little bit more space," he said.

"They did a good job of finding the lanes and they capitalized when they got the chances.

"We also went three-for-three on the power play, and special teams are always huge in the playoffs. We got a few goals from a number of other guys and we were able to take advantage of our chances, because at the other end, we were getting peppered with shots."

The Rush were outshot 67-37, yet after building an early lead, they never relinquished it. They did a good job of keeping Calgary's snipers to the outside and allowing goaltender Matt Disher to have a clear look at the ball.

They'll be taking a similar approach into their game against the Stealth.

"Washington has a really high-powered offence," Wardsaid. "But if we could do a similar game plan against them where we keep them to the outside, give them those outside shots and hope Disher can see them, I think that's crucial.

"We have to move the ball really well and move our feet really well on offence and attack them and try to put them on their heels. I think getting to their goalie early will be a key, as well."

With a number of offensive options themselves, the onus won't be all on Ward to put up similar point totals against the Stealth, even though he had 11 points in three regular-season games against them this season.

The Rush are confident if they can play another solid game defensively and spread the ball around, they'll have a good chance of advancing to the final against either the Toronto Rock or Orlando Titans.

"It's huge knowing that there are so many guys that can step up and score multiple goals," Ward said.

"I don't feel that I have to do it every night. If for some reason it's halftime and I haven't scored a ton of goals, it's not going to be the end of the world.

"From a psyche standpoint, it helps me stay positive and focused and allows me to keep doing my thing and know good things will happen.

"I want to contribute and put up goals and assists, but it's nice knowing there are other options on this team."


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