May 10, 2012
Rush NLL's Rabil rousers
By GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - It was the biggest goal in Edmonton Rush history, but they weren't the ones who scored it.
After playing to a 12-12 draw in regulation of the 2010 West Division final, the Washington Stealth were the ones rushing to victory just eight seconds into sudden-death.
It left the Rush an overtime goal short of hosting the Toronto Rock in the Champions Cup.
And spelled a crushing end to the franchise's best-ever season, which saw them finish with a 10-6 record before going on to defeat the defending-champion Calgary Roughnecks in the opening playoff round.
Fast-forwarding two years and, sure, their record is reversed to 6-10, but the playoff results are the same.
They defeated the Roughnecks 19-11 last weekend at the Saddledome, earning their second trip to the divisional final in three years.
Now, they get another chance to make history with a win over the Minnesota Swarm on Saturday (7:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network) to reach their first-ever Champions Cup.
Sure, they lost their division final the first time around and the season was considered a success, but it was how they lost that has stuck with the members of that Rush squad.
Including former team captain Brodie Merrill, who was traded to the Philadelphia Wings last summer.
"Yeah, I think back to that quite a bit. Even specifically to that semifinal game where we really had the momentum," Merrill said while making his first stop back at Rexall Place with his new team at the end of February. "I remember talking to Andy Secore, saying: 'If we just could have got one possession in overtime, we felt like we were in good shape.'
"But Paul Rabil -- it's kind of funny how that's come full circle -- he made a big play in that overtime and you kind of think back to, 'What if?'"
That Merrill trade -- which happened 23 years to the day Wayne Gretzky was sold to the L.A. Kings -- is something that impacts the Rush to this day.
While there were six players and five draft picks involved in the deal, including Philadelphia's next first-round selections over the next three seasons, it came down to Merrill and Athan Iannucci switching sides as the top skill.
But Iannucci, who set an NLL-record 71 goals in 2008, refused to play for the Rush, citing differences in philosophy, if you will, with owner Bruce Urban.
It ended up leaving a void in Edmonton's lineup as the team got off to a 2-7 start to the season.
Iannucci was eventually traded to the Stealth for none other than Rabil, who scored that fateful goal on this same week two years ago.
But the hole remained on the Rush roster, as the six-foot-three transition player, known as the Beast from the East, is also refusing to report to Edmonton and remains on their hold-out list.
So they're heading into the West Division final haunted by the ghost of Rabil -- past and present -- but in the meantime, the Rush delved to the depths of their own history for leadership.
In his first year wearing the 'C', Jimmy Quinlan is the last remaining original Rush member from the 2006 franchise year, and joins Merrill as the only captains to lead the team into the post-season.