It was fitting that on a night an MMA legend was standing on their bench, the Rush would lay a beating on their opponent. UFC star Georges (Rush) St-Pierre had to be impressed by the team he shares a nickname with: they were as brutal and lethally efficient as he is in the Octagon, dismantling a Mammoth squad playing their second game in two nights. To Colorado’s credit, they never tapped out. They might have wanted to at times, but fought to the end making the final score of 17-6 actually look closer than the game was thanks to some late goals. Edmonton’s offence had one of its best — if not its best — outing in franchise history, the defence was smothering as always, and Aaron Bold turned in a game-MVP-like performance. So what exactly did GSP say to the Rush players before the game? Was it some sort of epic ‘Win one for the Gipper’ type of speech?
“He never said anything to us before the game,” answered Mark Matthews. “He was just over there on the bench, trying to learn the game and giving us high fives when we came off. It was kind of cool.”
Matthews led the Rush in scoring with five goals and added four helpers in the win. (Worth noting Zack Greer also scored an impressive five goals).
Anytime you can win in the NLL, it’s big. When you can dominate an opponent like the Rush did, it’s massive.
What made the victory even more important is that it came at home, in front of the Rush faithful at Rexall Place.
“When you can get a home win like that and really take it to a team it’s nice,” said Matthews. “With our home record like it was last year, that was real nice to start off with in front of our fans.”
Last season the club won just twice at home and the season before, just four times.
So even on a night when GSP — one of the world’s most famous athletes and certainly the biggest athletic export globally in Canadian history — was in the house, the attendance was just 7,950.
Not that Matthews was complaining. In fact, he said it was one of the biggest and best crowds he’s seen at Rexall in his short time with the Rush.
The sad fact is the team has never drawn well in Edmonton. That was likely due to the fact they weren’t a good team for many years and didn’t win at home often.
“When you’re not producing at home and not winning games at home it can be tough to get people out to support you,” said Matthews.
However, that could all change this year. With the Oilers continuing to be one of the worst teams in the NHL and the CFL’s Eskimos putting forth a woeful campaign in the summer, the self-dubbed City of Champions is desperate for a winner.
“Our team is stressing that we have to win at home,” said Matthews, admitting the team is all too aware that should help put more butts in the stands. “We need to get wins at home, not just on the road.”
Which brings us to this Friday night at Rexall when the 2-0 Rush host the 1-1 Roughnecks.
It’s hard to emphasize just how important this game will be for the Rush. The Battle of Alberta is always a big deal in any sport, but beating the Roughnecks in Edmonton would go a long ways towards winning over more of the locals.
Conversely, a loss would wipe out the momentum from last weekend and would be the definition of one step forward, two steps back for the club.
“Calgary is a helluva team and they’re coming into our barn,” said Matthews. “It’s been a long time since we beat them in our arena.
“We’re really looking to step up and get a another win for our fans.”
QUICK STICKS: Having covered this league for 13 years, Buffalo’s win Friday night over Toronto was one of the most impressive comeback victories I’ve seen. Down 6-2 in the third quarter, they outscored Toronto 10-4 down the stretch. Anthony Cosmo was shaky in the first quarter allowing four goals, but settled down and looked like the Cosmo of old making 52 saves in the game. Helluva game for the hometown Bandits fans … When your offence is running lukewarm, gotta love when a guy like Steve Priolo steps up with two goals. The Bandits d-man scored a couple of beauties and added 10 loose balls for good measure against Toronto. The big 6-foot-5, 236-pounder has now matched his career high for goals in a season in only the second game of the campaign, having scored just twice last season and the season before … This just in: John Tavares is simply amazing. On Sunday, Tavares scored five goals — including the OT winner — against the Wings. He also chipped in two assists … Curtis Dickson looked much better in Calgary’s win over Colorado, but Superman is still putting up very Clark Kent-like numbers. Dickson scored just once Friday night, matching his output from the season-opener in Toronto. While he generated more scoring chances against the Mammoth (a good thing), his two goals on 20 shots on net this year makes for a grim shooting percentage (bad thing) … Don’t think there’s a player in the league that makes scoring in tight look as easy and effortless as Dane Dobbie. Smooth as silk … When Geoff Snider can chip in a hat-trick for the Roughnecks in a game, their chance of winning said game must be 99% or better. Cashing in on the transition chances he gets off face-off wins is the kind of gravy that can put Calgary over the top on any night … Another great outing from Sean Pollock Friday, contributing a hat-trick in the loss to Calgary. Very under-rated player. One of the few bright spots for Colorado right now … The Mammoth knew there would be some struggles this season between the pipes having to rely on two young goalies. However, they likely didn’t expect it to be this bad with both ’tenders wearing down the carpet going to and from the bench in the ongoing pull-a-palooza. It will likely get worse before it gets better … How impressive was the play of Tyler Carlson and Evan Kirk last year? How unique and incredible is it for two young goalies to enter the NLL and play like that? Look no further than Colorado’s struggles this season … Funny that Jeff Shattler sometimes gets overshadowed playing on an offence with Shawn Evans, Dickson and Dobbie. But he does. I’d say he’s the most complete player in the NLL today and has been playing like an MVP this season with eight goals in two games … Fitting the first player to score for the Stealth in their hometown debut in Langley was Rhys Duch … Which NLL sniper is the most frustrated right now: Dickson, Grant or Lewis Ratcliff? Discuss … Best outside, far-side, top corner shooter in the league: Dobbie, Matthews or Garrett Billings? Discuss.The assistant managing editor of the Calgary Sun, Pilson began covering the NLL when the Roughnecks started in 2000. The longtime lacrosse player has been contributing to Inside Lacrosse ever since. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to CalgarySun.com.
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