January 30, 2010

Rush Win Third Straight by Downing Calgary

by Matthew Iwanyk | NLL.com

The Edmonton Rush (3-1) were able to draw first blood this season in the Battle of Alberta, as they defeated the Calgary Roughnecks (1-3) 14-11 at Rexall Place Saturday night. The Rush have now won three consecutive game, the first time in franchise history that accomplishment has been achieved

The crowd of 7,815 were treated to an energetic, physical game that went right down to the final buzzer. The Roughnecks were down by three early in the fourth quarter, but would not go easily. They were able to claw their way back to a one-goal deficit with just over five minutes to go, but Rush forwards Dean Hill and Scott Stewart were able to score late to preserve the Rush victory.

With the victory the Rush have their best start to a season in franchise history with a 3-1 record, a huge accomplishment for both the Rush franchise and its players.

"It is a huge game," said Rush goalie Matt Disher. "It's great for the team as a whole right now. We are feeling pretty good. We are still coming together as a team, so every little win like this help."

It was a quick start for the Edmonton Rush as Ian Hawksbee got the ball to Scott Steward, who then squeaked the ball past Roughnecks goalie Matt King just 39 seconds into the game. King himself had a rough start, allowing four goals in just over eight minutes of play. Roughnecks Head Coach Dave Pym decided to make a goalie change after falling behind 4-1, replacing King with Chris Levis.

The move sparked the Roughnecks, who scored four straight goals to take their first lead of the game just over a minute into the second quarter as Kaleb Toth was able to get the ball past Disher.

Immediately after Toth's goal, Rush defender Ian Crashley crosschecked Toth, who took exception and a fight quickly brewed. On the play, Crashley received a five-minute crosschecking major and was ejected from the game.

The five-minute power play proved to be for naught, as the Roughnecks were not able to solve Disher, while also allowing two Rush short handed goals by Gavin Prout and Ryan Ward.

"That was one of the key points of the game," said Rush Head Coach Derek Keenan.

"On five-minute power plays they usually get one, but for them to get none and us to score two was good."

After the first half the score was even 7-7, with each team exchanging goals and hits. In the first half, there were two separate moments when large scrums occurred between the two teams.

The game was not without disputes, as the Roughnecks challenged two different plays within a three-minute block. At 6:21 to go in the third quarter, Prout scored in front of the crease, but after review the call was overturned. Later Roughnecks forward Dane Dobbie scored a goal which was originally ruled no-goal on the field.

The Rush were led by Disher, the game MVP. Disher made 45 saves on the 56 shots he faced. He also came up big late in the game, denying the Roughnecks on a comeback bid.

"(Disher) was spectacular. We were under the gun. We were down two bodies," Keenan said of his goaltender's play.

"You get less then experienced guys who got to playing the defensive end. Consequently, (the Roughnecks) get lots of shots, and he was there for us big time."

Hill led the Rush offensively scoring a hat trick, while Ward scored a goal and added five assists. A big reason for the Rush victory was their ability to gain the loose ball, as they were led by transition player Brodie Merrill, who was credited with 18 loose balls on the game. Rush rookie Brett Mydske scored his first career NLL goal in the first quarter of the game and scored a second goal with just 11 seconds off the clock in the fourth quarter.

"It was a pretty big momentum shift at that point," Mydske said about his second goal of the game.

"(It) gave a nice little cushion and (we) didn't have to worry."

The Roughnecks were led by forwards Josh Sanderson, Dobie and Tracy Kelusky in the losing cause. Each player scored two goals, while Sanderson also dished out five assists on the night. Veteran forward Toth played his first game of the season for the Roughnecks, scoring two goals and adding two assists.

The game certainly lived up to the history of the Battle of Alberta. The game was extremely physical with the Rush receiving twelve penalties and the Roughnecks earning seven. The game also had two separate fights along with multiple scrums.

Keenan feels that the increased intensity to the game was indeed due to the rivalry.

"We are trying to play physical every night. They matched our physicality. There were every bit as physical as us. They are a difficult team to play against.," said Keenan.

The two teams will not need to wait long to see each other, playing again next Friday night at the Pengrowth Sadledome in Calgary.

Rush goalie Matt Disher said some improvements could be made heading into next week's game.

"(We need to) keep a bit more pressure on their guys. We are obviously going to watch what we did tonight, review it and then that is how we will analyze to see what we have to do next week."

After the game Rush captain Chris McElroy - along with five other Rush players - had their heads shaved in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northern Alberta and Pediatric Oncology at the Stollery Hospital in Edmonton. Last week the players had their hair dyed pink for the event.

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