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Sports This Week: Sask Rush coach happy with NLL preseason

The Rush start the regular season Dec. 3, hosting the Colorado Mammoth. 
Jimmy Quinlan about to embark on his first full season at helm of Saskatchewan Rush.

YORKTON - Saskatchewan Rush fans are hoping for a better season ahead than the one finished in the spring, since the team missed the cut and watched the playoffs from the sidelines. 

Rush coach Jimmy Quinlan is of course hoping for better things too, especially as this will be his first full season as the man calling the shots after taking the reins late last season. 

So how has it been running his first training camp as head coach? 

“It’s been good – To be honest I was quite nervous going into it,” he told Yorkton This Week in a recent interview. 

While there were some nerves early, overall Quinlan said he has been pleased with how training camp progressed, adding that transpired by being focused. 

“We had a very good plan,” he said, adding that while following the plan was something of a road map through camp, they were also adaptive as required. 

Quinlan said when they have seen areas which need some added attention, they have been ready to shift gears to deal with whatever has popped up, adding those re “the nuances” of a camp. 

“All-in-all it’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “. . . I’m happy with the ways things are going.” 

Certainly the Rush have looked solid through preseason. In their first game they thumped Buffalo 15-6 – the same Bandits team they lost to in the NLL East final in the spring. 

Then it was the Toronto Rock in a game where the offence was again rolling, but the end result gave Quinlan something to work on. 

The Rush won the game 16-14 over the Rock, but almost let the game slip away. 

While Toronto never held the lead they did tie the game late, before the Rush scored the winning goal in the final minute.

The issue was giving up a substantial lead, which included being up 9-3, 10-4, and 10-6 at halftime.

Quinlan said the offence has looked sharp.

“We’ve scored in all facets of the game,” he said, but he then reminded preseason games are hard to measure given incomplete starting rosters and often not the top netminder for the whole game.

In the game Nick Rose played the first half in net for the Rock allowing 10 goals, while Troy Holowchuk played the second half and allowed five goals.

The Rush also split goaltending. Eric Penney started and gave up four goals. Cameron Dunkerley gave up nine goals in his time, with Laine Hruska playing the final 15 minutes and allowed one goal.

New addition Alex Buque did not see action against the Rock, but he did draw praise from his new coach.

“He’s been very good,” said Quinlan, adding that extends beyond stopping the ball, He said Buque “has been a great fit for the team,” which he deemed critical. “. . . He loves being around our team.”

Buque did start in the Rush’s last preseason game in Calgary, a 9-8 overtime win where Buque and Penney drew praise from radio announcers as did Roughnecks netminder Christian Del Bianco. 

The win gave the Rush a perfect 3-0 preseason record.

Having Buque among four netminders vying for time is a good thing reasoned Quinlan.

“It gives us more flexibility,” said the coach.

As for offence, the Rush are seeing a mix of veterans and youngsters potting goals.

One of those young guns is high draft pick Jake Boudreau who was the hero against the Rock as he scored with 41 seconds to play, for the go-ahead goal, and 35 seconds later, he also scored the empty net goal that sealed the 16-14 win.

Quinlan said he’ll take the goals.

“We were very happy with the results at the offensive end,” he said, but added “we didn’t like the result” in terms of letting the Rock back into the game.

Boudreau is among a crop of young players Quinlan said are going to play a role on this season’s Rush team including Austin Madronic, Ryan Barnable, Jerrett Smith and Marshall Powless, Clark Walter among those looking good through camp. 

The Rush are also not without star power with experience, with Mark Matthews, Robert Church and Ryan Keenan expected to score tons of goals, and Dan Lintner and Josh Currier chipping in too over the season, while Kyle Rubisch, Ryan Dilks, Mike Messenger and Matt Beers anchor the defence. 

“It’s a really good mix,” offered Quinlan, adding the key will be to put the young players “. . . in a position to just go out and play.” 

The Rush start the regular season Dec. 3, hosting the Colorado Mammoth. 

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