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Split Dodge: Rush Runs Through Roughnecks, 11-9

After a tough loss on Friday night, the Edmonton Rush (10-5) came back with a strong 11-9 victory in game two of a home-and-home series against the Calgary Roughnecks (5-11), this time at Northlands. The night also marked history as Roughnecks forward Shawn Evans broke the NLL single-season points record.

“Big, big win for us,” said Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. “You’ve got to bounce back after a tough loss. We had our chances last night to get a win, maybe at the end, and it didn’t happen. We’ll probably see them again.”

Despite the loss, Roughnecks head coach Kurt Malawsky was very optimistic looking at his team’s effort over the weekend.

“I thought our compete level was great, the guys battled hard,” said Malawsky. “I thought our composure was really good last night, I thought our composure was good at times tonight. I think our composure got away from us at times tonight a little bit, and that’s kudos to them, they’re a great team, they’re number one in the West for a reason: they’re very well coached, and they’re very disciplined, and they make you earn everything. Last night we earned everything that we got, and tonight sometimes we were looking the other way and it kind of got away from us.”

The Rush had a far better first quarter on Saturday night than they did on Friday. They started the game building a 3-0 lead with two goals from Robert Church and one from Chris Corbeil in transition. Shawn Evans put Calgary on the board, victimizing Jeff Cornwall, but Ben McIntosh got it back just seconds after, allowing the Rush to take a 4-1 lead into the second.

Edmonton kept rolling into the second, starting with a Mark Matthews Power Play goal. Later, both Geoff Snider, and Andrew McBride took minor penalties giving Edmonton a five on three man advantage. After the play was blown in, it took Ben McIntosh just one second to score Edmonton’s sixth. Curtis Dickson, one who is known to have success against the Edmonton Rush, beat three defenders and Aaron Bold, while shorthanded, to make it 6-2. Matthew Dinsdale then scored his first against his former team for his third of the season. The Roughnecks capped off the quarter with goals from Dobbie and Dickson, and looked to add more to the comeback in the second half.

The third quarter was much less eventful, though it did have a historical impact. Calgary scored two goals, with Shawn Evans assisting on them both. Evans broke the franchise record for most points in a season with 114, and recorded his 500th assists, making him only the 11th player in league history to do so. Edmonton got a lone goal from Mark Matthews, as goaltender Mike Poulin made some key saves.

In the fourth, the Roughnecks kept pace but just couldn’t complete the comeback. The rivals went back in fourth with Calgary getting three goals from Dane Dobbie, and Edmonton getting goals from Matthews, and Zack Greer (2). Calgary was unable to score late due to penalties, and the Rush won 11-9, jumping further ahead of the Colorado Mammoth, who lost to the Knighthawks on Saturday night.

“I think we poked the bear there a couple weeks ago,” joked Keenan pn Rochester’s recent success. “They’ve been pretty good since.”

Evans’ historical night continued as he broke the NLL single season points record previously set by John Grant Jr. in 2012, with 117 points. Evan’s did it in his 16th game of the season while Jr. scored 116 in 14 games. Evans still has two important games to go in which he can expand on his record total.

“It would have been better to have the to points with the win there, but I’m proud of the record,” Evans said. “A lot of credit goes to my family at home, my wife who looks after my kids, and helps me do what I do, and lets me play at the highest level. If it wasn’t for her, I would be home looking after the kids and wouldn’t get a chance to come here. I feel proud, and I feel prouder to do it with this group of guys.

“Shawn is a special player; he’s just got that God-given talent,” Malawsky said. “He’s got that work ethic that he employs out there, and he’s got that fearlessness, he goes to the middle of the floor, he makes everybody around him better, he gets big goals, he makes big plays, and he’s an emotional guy that we feed off of. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, and I’m glad we got that achievement.”

Robert Church (2+3) and Mark Matthews (3+2) led the Rush in scoring with five points each.

Edmonton has a two game lead over the Colorado Mammoth, but know that to complete their higher goal of wining a championship, they need to master consistency.

“I think we’ve learned this year though the process, that we’ve [took our foot off the gas] for games this year, full games, and we’ve seen the results,” Keenan said. “I thought we were lucky to beat Vancouver last week, we weren’t great last night, credit to them for that though, they played well. We try to remind them of that, and it seems to be in their hands, that they need to recognize and preparation is a big part, and sometimes we’re too loose before games. We have to clean that up.”

The Rush have three games remaining: two against Colorado and one against the Minnesota Swarm, who were eliminated from the playoff race on Saturday.

The Roughnecks are tied with the Vancouver Stealth for the last playoff spot in the West Division, with the two teams facing off in the season finally. Next week, Calgary will visit the Swarm.

“From a coaching perspective, all you want to do is get better,” said Malawsky. “I think from the mid-season and after our 0-6 start, we banged around little bit and put two together last night, and we’re better today than we were yesterday, and I think we’re learning as we go along.”

“We’re prepared to go to Minnesota and Vancouver to battle for that spot. The guys are focused and hungry and this is what they’re here for: the playoff push.”

“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Evans said. “I think we’re playing well, and I think that we hold our own destiny. We have Minnesota next weekend, and Vancouver for the last game of the year, so we’re going to be ready to go.”

Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:

1) Zack Greer
2) Shawn Evans
3) Mark Matthews

Story by Mike Wilson (@RushBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Dale MacMillan.