Rush close in on first

Corey Small (in white) is checked by Bill Greer during Edmonton Rush practice at the Leduc...

Corey Small (in white) is checked by Bill Greer during Edmonton Rush practice at the Leduc Recreation Centre in Leduc on Saturday. The Rush host the Calgary Roughnecks Sunday afternoon. (Perry Mah, Edmonton Sun)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:56 PM ET

EDMONTON - Just like that, they’re back in the hunt.

A win this weekend would put the Edmonton Rush one game out of first place in their division, and that’s not bad for a team that started the season 0-5.

While they limped into the bye week licking their wounds, they emerged to sweep the defending champion Washington Stealth.

“We had a week off to really regroup and look at a couple things,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan. “It was an important weekend for us to beat those guys twice and we’ll see if we can keep that thing rolling.”

Standing in their way Sunday at 2 p.m. are the Calgary Roughnecks, who will come into Rexall Place with a tenuous grasp on first place in the West Division following an 9-8 overtime loss to the East Division leading Toronto Rock last weekend.

“We were a little frustrated with our performance in Toronto,” said Roughnecks head coach Dave Pym. “Just the fact that you hold a team of that quality to eight 60-minute goals (is an accomplishment).

“We’re looking forward to turning it around against Edmonton and really cleaning up some of the fundamental mistakes that we made with our passing and catching that ultimately really cost us that game last weekend.”

The last Battle of Alberta saw the Roughnecks squeeze out a 12-11 overtime victory to hold a 2-0 advantage in the season series.

“We couldn’t be happier to get back at it with our provincial rival,” Pym said. “It’s always an entertaining weekend.”

The difference this time is the Roughnecks are facing an opponent that has rediscovered how to win and found their confidence last week.

“I think after Friday there was relief, for sure, and then Saturday there was a feeling of confidence again,” Keenan said of sweeping the Stealth. “We were a pretty confident group going into Washington (last) Saturday night, so now we’ve just got to keep it going.

“Now we know we’re capable of scoring goals and big numbers and playing the good defence we need to. Just having a little bit higher level of compete on a consistent basis, which we kind of started in Calgary a couple weeks back.”

Patience, Keenan said, has been the key.

“Winning, or success even in small doses, builds confidence,” he said. “There’s a tendency for the guys to start believing in themselves again and not squeezing the sticks when they get scoring opportunities and it kind of becomes contagious not only as a group but as individuals.

“It builds as you have a little bit of success, it kind of compounds itself. I think that’s what happened last weekend and now the objective is to keep that confidence level up and at the same time still play with that real high compete level that we need to have success.”

IN AND OUT: The Rush expect to have defender Pat Jones back in the lineup to resume his role in the faceoff circle, which was an area of weakness last weekend. The Rush lost 25 of 30 faceoffs to the Stealth’s Bob Snider on Saturday and 27 of 33 on Sunday. This week against Calgary, they will look to have more success against his brother, Geoff Snider.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/Gerry_EdmSun


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