Shawn Slaght, All Lacrosse All The Time – A Division of the Edge of Philly Sports Network
For the first time in recent memory, the Saskatchewan Rush failed to make the playoffs last year. This season, the Rush will look to get back into form as the perennial contenders that they are.
And it all starts behind the bench. While Jeff McComb is a proven offensive coach. His head coaching debut did not go well.
After going 4-10, McComb was relieved of his duties. Jimmy Quinlan became the co-head coach with Derek Keenan heading down the stretch where they went 4-0 to finish the season. Quinlan now takes sole reigns behind the bench and will look to continue his winning ways.
There is still plenty to build on with this team. They led the league with 227 caused turnovers, only four ahead of a very good Toronto defence.
On the floor, there weren’t too many surprises. The Saskatchewan Rush was able to lock up Kyle Rubisch for another year, but lost captain Chris Corbeil to free agency. Meanwhile, they lost Jeff Cornwall in the expansion draft and he was subsequently traded to the Calgary Roughnecks. Jordi Jones-Smith was traded to New York and Jeff Shattler called it a career.
There is not too much to worry about on offence for the Saskatchewan Rush.
On the right side, you’re likely going to see Robert Church, Josh Currier and Dan Lintner see the bulk of the floor time. They have a little bit of depth with the re-signing of Mike Mallory and Austin Madronic, who was taken sixth overall in this year’s draft.
On the left side, the Rush still has Mark Matthews and Ryan Keenan. With the retirement of Shattler, look for Marshall Powless to play a bigger role in the offence.
Add in Clark Walter, who had 45 points in 16 games this summer for the Coquitlam Adanacs, and Ethan Forgrave with 37 points in 18 games between the Nanaimo Timbermen and New Westminster Salmonbellies and the Rush offence looks pretty good.
Losing the likes of Corbeil, Cornwall and Jones-Smith, you’d think that Rush would be in trouble, but that just how deep this defensive core is. It is also a good mix of veterans and young talent.
Ryan Dilks is returning under the franchise tag and will likely wear the “C” this season. Veterans Matt Beers, Rubisch, Connor McClelland, Holden Garlent and Bobby Kidd III are all returning. Mike Messenger is also back and last year played out of both gates. Don’t be surprised if they mix things up again and play Messenger on offence every now and then.
The Rush have two highly touted prospects Ryan Barnable and Jake Boudreau, whom they are very excited about.
You can add into the mix Isaac Ngyou, who anchored a relatively inexperienced Langley Thunder to a Mann Cup berth, and Jerrett Smith, who had a strong summer with the Nanaimo Timbermen.
This was the biggest question mark last year heading into this season as the Rush couldn’t find any consistency between the pipes. To solve that, GM Derek Keenan signed as many goaltenders as he could.
Saskatchewan re-signed Eric Penney and then turned the lacrosse world sideways by signing free agent Alexis Buque to a two-year deal away from Vancouver. Interesting to note it was the one-two punch of Buque and Penney that led the Ladner Pioneers to this year’s President‘s Cup. There is also a Whitby connection with Derek Keenan and Buque.
With the signing of Buque, that still leaves Adam Shute, who has shown he is a serviceable goaltender in the league.
It also leaves two young prospects in Cameron Dunkerley, who won his first ever NLL start last year, and Saskatchewan product and former first-round pick Laine Hruska.
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Shawn Slaght has been a sports reporter across the Canadian prairies for over 10 years and has experience covering everything from junior hockey to World Cup skiing to all levels of lacrosse. He is the Saskatchewan correspondent for All Lacrosse All The Time.