SEATTLE — He may have been contained to some extent last weekend against the Calgary Roughnecks.
But while Ryan Ward only scored one goal, he set up eight others to lead the way offensively for the Edmonton Rush.
Heading into Saturday’s National Lacrosse League semifinal against the Washington Stealth, the Rush’s leading scorer is once again expected to be at the heart of the team’s offence.
“Last week, Calgary gave our side a little bit more attention,” said Ward. “I expect Washington to do a little bit of that as well. But I also think overall, they might be giving us a little more respect as well.
“I don’t know if they ever thought we were that good. But now we’ve beaten them twice, we’ve beaten the defending champs, and I think they’re thinking that this is going to be a tough game, not just a free ticket to the championship.”
Ward was in on all but two goals the Rush scored against the Roughnecks last week. Calgary paid special attention to the seven-year veteran, who finished with 74 points this season, one shy of a career high. Yet that created an opening for players on the other side of the floor.
“Last week, Calgary did a good job against our right side, but then our left side, Andy Secore, Corey Small and Dean Hill all contributed and that’s where our goals came from,” said Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan. “We might not have the high end offensive talent, but we have good balance. If you look at our stats, we have five or six guys that can score, we have our top guys, but you know you’re going to get contributions from guys like Brodie Merrill and Scott Stewart in transition.
“We think we can have success against these guys. Just like them, you can’t just focus on one guy with us. We have a lot of guys that can score as well. I think it’s just as difficult a matchup for them as well.”
Hill was the biggest beneficiary of the extra attention afforded Ward and the Rush’s other top scorers. He finished with a team-high three goals in the contest.
“In Calgary, they couldn’t just focus on one or two players,” Ward said. “That’s been the strength of our team all along, we’re pretty deep. It’s not just one or two guys pulling the load. If you look at our score sheet, it’s pretty spread out.
“I think we need to continue with that approach, but we do have to get our big guys contributing also.”
Against Calgary, the Rush were able to build an early lead in the contest and keep control of the game despite a strong push from the defending champions in the second half.
Spreading the scoring around allowed the Rush to keep the Roughnecks off balance. It’s something they hope to do against the Stealth Saturday.
“Last week we did a tremendous job of answering if they went on a little bit of a run and scored some goals,” said Rush forward Jimmy Quinlan. “Our offence did a good job responding and we were able to score some key goals.”
Offensively, the Rush are heading into their contest against the Stealth with a similar game plan. They want to be patient, move the ball around and get off quality shots.They scored 11 goals on 37 shots against the Roughnecks.
“Our coaching staff has done a tremendous job of preparing us every week, and it’s really just our job of going out there, paying attention to the details and executing,”
Quinlan said. “I think if we do that against Washington, we’ll give ourselves a good chance of winning the game.”