Edmonton rushes Swarm, advances to NLL championshipMay 13, 2012
MINNEAPOLIS - After two regular season contests that went into overtime, including one that was the second longest game in NLL history, the predominant expectation of the West Division Final, featuring the Edmonton Rush at the Minnesota Swarm, was that it was going to be a close contest no matter who won.
Edmonton defied those expectations Saturday night in a 15-3 rout that wasn’t even close. They advanced to next week’s NLL championship game against the Rochester Knighthawks.
After a 1-1 tie following the first five minutes of play, the Rush scored three unanswered goals in the next four minutes to take a 4-1 lead and they never looked back. By the end of the first period, the Rush lead was extended to 6-1. At halftime it was 11-1. When forward Ryan Ward scored the final goal with 6:55 remaining in the contest to make it 15-3, fans headed for the exits. It was over.
“I felt very confident that we could beat a good team. I certainly didn’t expect to dominate like that,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan. “We’re just playing really well right now. It’s pretty special in the locker room right now but we’ve got one more to go.”
Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan, recently named NLL Coach-of-the-Year, was contrite after the game. “We should have made some changes early on and we didn’t. When we don’t adjust quick enough, then you put yourself in a hole. You force your offense to do things that you don’t typically do,” he said. “Hats off to Edmonton. They’re a great team and they deserve to go to the Champion’s Cup.”
Ward led all scorers with four goals. Aaron Wilson and Corey Small each chipped in three. Ward, Wilson and Zack Greer, who added two goals, were former teammates at Minnesota. Combined, the three forwards accounted for nine of the goals against their former squad.
“A couple months ago, people were dogging us and now we’re in the championship game. It’s all about peaking at the right time,” said Ward.
When asked about what motivated him, he said, “I got hit in the head. That kind of got me into the game. I was loafing around before that, and that got me engaged. Then I started finding my rhythm.”
Though often overlooked, the star of the game was Rush goaltender Aaron Bold. Minnesota put 42 shots-on-goal and Bold saved 39 of them.
“He’s incredible. He’s our backbone. We’re here because of him,” Ward said.
Keenan said, “Outstanding. He’s given us a chance to win all year. He’s had very few times where we could take him out for a short period of time."
"I thought our defense was outstanding and we executed the system very well. But when we had breakdowns and they have some guys who can make plays, he was there and made some outstanding saves,” he added.
Swarm transition Andrew Suitor, who was ejected after a brawl with 7:28 left in the game, conceded that Bold made the difference in the contest. “We worked hard but didn’t work smart,” he said. “My hat is off to them. Aaron Bold had a great game. He was runner-up for goalie of the year but he’s proven that he might be right there.”
When asked about the fight, Suitor said, “I’ll just leave that on the floor. It’s just something that happens on the floor so it stays on the floor.”
For Minnesota, a team that has had 12 rookies and a coaching change, its back to the drawing boards hoping that 2013 will find them where Edmonton is now, in the championship game.
“We weren’t supposed to go anywhere this year. We weren’t supposed to have a chance. The positive is that we had 12 rookies this year. In the end, our season has fallen short from where we wanted it. We had high goals for this team and we became a family. It’s tough to see everybody go their separate ways,” said Suitor.
For Edmonton, it’s one more week with one last opponent, Rochester, and the chance to claim their first championship in team history.
“It feels great but we want to stay level,” said Keenan. “I still have a job to do. We don’t want to be satisfied with where we’re at. Regardless of record and what we’ve accomplished in the playoffs, like every other team in this league, the big goal is to win a championship. Now the opportunity is in front of us.”
That opportunity will come Saturday when the Edmonton Rush visit the Knighthawks in a 7:30 p.m. ET matchup on Saturday night at the Blue Cross arena in Rochester, N.Y. The game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.