|Colorado Mammoth goalie Chris Levis lets in an Edmonton Rush goal during NLL action at Rexall Place in on Friday. The Rush won 14-10 to keep their slight playoff hopes alive. (Amber Bracken, Edmonton Sun)
EDMONTON - If the Edmonton Rush looked like they were playing for their playoff lives, it’s because they are.
The Rush buried the Colorado Mammoth 14-10 at Rexall Place on Friday in the first of a three-game set that could go a long way toward securing the final playoff spot.
It was the third consecutive game in which the Rush sniped 14 goals, as they improved their record to 4-9.
The teams square off in a rematch tonight in Denver.
“There’s been kind of a dark cloud over the season,” said Rush forward Corey Small, who led the offence with three goals and eight points.
“We can erase all that with two wins this weekend.”
It started off ugly, looking a little too much like a battle of the NLL’s cellar-dwellers as the last-place Mammoth and second-last Rush appeared to have problems with even basic passing and catching.
But the Rush soon found their footing, building on a 47-save performance by goalie Matt Disher.
“We really needed a shut-down defensive effort and I thought from Dish on out we had that,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan.
“I thought we played with a lot of jam. We won a lot of loose-ball battles and put some butts on the turf. We were physical.”
Colorado drew first blood, as forward John Grant Jr. scored his first of four goals. But the Rush answered right back 28 seconds later with a goal from Andy Secore, followed by a power-play tally from Evans and a shorthanded marker from Small to lead 3-1 after the first quarter.
Evans finished with four goals and two assists, matching the output of Mammoth forward Alex Gajic
Rush captain Brodie Merrill scored on a breakaway to put Edmonton in front 6-4 at the half.
Small and Dean Hill kept up the onslaught with goals to kick off the third quarter before the Mammoth scored the prettiest goal of the night, a tic-tac-toe play from Joel Delgarno and Grant Jr. to Alex Gajic.
Not to be outdone, Small put a bow on a rather impressive hat trick that saw him airborne for all three goals.
The teams split six goals in the final frame, including Grant Jr. and Evans both scoring their fourth of the night before Gajic rounded out his hat trick for Colorado.
“Our guys were forcing them to a lot of outside shots, maybe not shots that Colorado wanted to take, so it made it a lot easier,” said goalie Matt Disher.
“Our offence pushed the ball. It was fortunate that I had a few (early) stops there. You always have to have a couple lucky ones too.
“You do your best to keep your team in it.”