Next stop: the Champions Cup final — that is, if the Edmonton Rush ever manage to find the brakes again.
The last-seeded squad earned its first appearance to the NLL’s championship game after rolling through the Minnesota Swarm 15-3 on Saturday.
The crowd of 6,491 at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center could only watch helplessly as the Rush sprinted to an 11-1 lead in a first half that saw the Swarm bring in both their goalies.
They might as well have stuck them both in at the same time, though it probably wouldn't have helped much. The Rush were dominant out of the gates, bolting to a six-goal opening quarter for the second week in a row to follow up a 19-11 win over the top-seeded Calgary Roughnecks by picking up right where they left off.
This time, it was against an opponent who came into Saturday’s West Division final riding a five-game win streak.
“I was pretty confident that we would come in and win, but I didn’t think we would completely dominate a good team like that,” said Rush head coach and GM Derek Keenan. “Three goals in a playoff game is unbelievable.”
As was the three consecutive goals Edmonton scored in 35 seconds to take a 5-1 lead in the first 10 minutes, which would have been all the offence they needed Saturday.
Ryan Ward led the way with four goals and seven points, along with three goals and four assists from Aaron Wilson, who was traded by Minnesota in the off-season.
“It feels unbelievable. A full team effort, everybody bought into our system and our game plan,” said Wilson, who scored an overtime winner against Minnesota in the regular season.
“There’s always a bit of motivation to play against a team that trades you away. Especially in the playoffs.”
Jarrett Toll led the Rush with 17 loose balls and was 77% on faceoffs, but the stunning stat belonged to Aaron Bold, who stopped 39 of 42 shots.
He downplayed his performance as easily as he turned aside Minnesota’s scoring opportunities.
“Regardless of the three goals-against, I was just really antsy,” said Bold, who ends his first year as an NLL starter with a trip to the final. “It’s been a great year for myself as well as the team and I was just really excited for this whole weekend.
“I put in some time, personally, for this game and it’s going to continue over to Rochester.”
The Rush will head into the Blue Cross Arena next Saturday at 5:30 p.m. to take on the Rochester Knighthawks in an NLL final featuring two sub-.500 squads.
Minnesota’s first-ever appearance in the division final was a letdown, to say the least, following a third-place-overall finish to the regular season.
“A great year for us, we wanted to keep this thing going,” Swarm assistant captain Kevin Ross told the crowd in a post-game interview. “It was one of those nights, we ran into a good team and a hot goalie and all the credit in the world to them.”