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Rush get first victory in Toronto, down Rock

The Canadian Press

3/24/2013 6:10:15 PM

TORONTO -- Edmonton is looking like the team to beat for the National Lacrosse League's Champion's Cup.

The Rush won their fifth in a row Sunday, drubbing overall leader Toronto 17-12, and with three games left in their 16-game schedule they are peaking at the right time.

Rookie sensation Mark Matthews and Zack Greer scored three goals each and Kyle Rubisch, Chris Corbeil and Corey Small got two each in the franchise's first victory in Toronto after being 0-6 since their 2006 inception.

"It's a huge win for us," said Matthews. "We clinched a playoff spot and that's big for us. We play our last three games at home now so maybe we can steal first place (overall) and get home-field advantage for the playoffs."

Brett Mydske, Curtis Knight, Ryan Dilks, John Lafontaine and Jeremy Thompson also scored for the Rush (8-5), who jumped into first place in the NLL West with a fifth straight win. They are 7-1 since a 1-4 start.

Garrett Billings, Colin Doyle and Kasey Beirnes scored three goals each and Josh Sanderson, Jesse Gamble and Stephan Leblanc one each for East and overall leader Toronto (8-4).

"We were not prepared," said coach Troy Cordingley. "That's a very, very solid team and I don't know if it's us not respecting their abilities but they dominated for 60 minutes. We got our asses handed to us, to be honest with you. Our team is all about passion and work, and there was absolutely none of that there."

Toronto had won three of its previous four.

"We needed to come into this barn and get a win," said Greer.

They did it emphatically. Looking frisky despite a 3 a.m. hotel check-in after a 14-7 romp in Buffalo the previous night, they led all the way. They were up 3-2 late in the first quarter when they went on a run of five goals in three minutes 19 seconds.

Greer started it when he sped around Sandy Chapman to get to the edge of the crease and bury a short-side shot. Matthews dove into the crease to deposit the ball over goalie Nick Rose's right shoulder. Lafontaine scored on a breakaway when he threw a deke that induced Rose to go to his knees and left the top half of the net open. Second quarter, same story. Mydske scored another breakaway goal and Greer whipped in a sidearm shot to make it 8-2.

Goodbye Rose, hello Zak Boychuk.

Thompson made it 9-2 with a sixth straight Rush goal five minutes later. Toronto narrowed it to 9-5 by halftime but the Rush were up 14-8 after three quarters.

Edmonton outshot Toronto 57-41 in winning for the seventh time in eight road games. The Rock couldn't cope with the speed of the Rush, who got solid goaltending from Aaron Bold.

"We scored seven goals in transition, which definitely took the load off us offensive guys," said Small.

Matthews moved into a tie with 2012 league MVP John Grant Jr. of the Colorado Mammoth for most goals with 35 goals each.

As good as the Rush were offensively, they were even better defensively.

"This feels good," said Rubisch, who leads all NLL defencemen in takeaways. "It's a great win when you've got the goaltending, the defence and the offence doing it all together. It's just a huge team win. We've got a nice run going and it definitely lifts our team spirit, that's for sure."

Rubisch is from Brampton, Corbeil from Oakville, Dilks from Hamilton, Small from St. Catharines and Matthews, Lafontaine, Knight, Greer and coach Derek Keenan are from Oshawa-Whitby, so there was a good-sized Rush cheering section in the 9,947 Air Canada Centre crowd.

"We've always looked up to the Toronto Rock because we're from here," said Lafontaine. "To be out there playing on that floor now, it's amazing."

Getting the franchise's first win in Toronto had all the Rush players smiling.

"There's this mystique about playing in Toronto," said Small. "But we've been on a roll so we had confidence coming in. Playing last night, we were pretty crisp with our sticks. We had our stick action going. I think that helped us out as well."

Added Knight: "I think we're the best team in the league now. That was our fifth win in a row. We're looking strong."

Keenan hadn't been on a winning team's bench in the ACC since 2003 when he was an assistant coach with the Rock.

"It's been a long, long time," said the contented coach. "Eleven seasons. It does feel good. We played well. I think we earned it, for sure. We had a great weekend."

This was the last of five consecutive road games for the Rush, who are 1-4 at home.

"We had a good road swing and now we have to figure out how to do this at home," said Keenan.

NOTES: On power plays, Toronto was 4-for-6 and Edmonton was 2-for-5 . . . The Rush had a 22-8 advantage in shots on goal in the first quarter . . . Scott Johnston fought Jeremy Thompson with Edmonton up 13-7 in the third quarter . . . Edmonton gathered in 82 loose balls to 68 for Toronto . . . Edmonton plays Colorado on April 6, Rochester on April 14 and Calgary on April 20 . . . Toronto is home against Buffalo this Friday and in Rochester on Saturday, is back home against Rochester on April 7 and finishes up at Philadelphia on April 13.