YORKTON - The Saskatchewan Rush are readying for a new season, a season they hope to return to the National Lacrosse League playoffs, after an extended summer away from the floor.
“It was a longer time off than we’re used to,” said long-time Rush defenceman Kyle Rubisch.
The Rush last season just missed the playoffs based on a record of 8-10. The team scored 196 and allowed 194.
“There were so many tight games that didn’t go our way,” said Rubisch, adding it wasn’t one glaring problem that hounded the Rush last season, but rather a play or two here or there. “. . . Last year there was not definitive issue.”
While the numbers suggest a team which with a goal or two here and there might have made the ‘second season’ but the Achilles Heel for the Rush was their road performance winning only two of nine away from the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.
Rubisch said the team hopes to use the rough results last season as motivation for a better season this time around.
“There’s a lot of expectations,” he said, adding that when the Rush lost to Georgia in the league final in 2017, the team used it to refocus and they came out and won the title again in 2018. That is how they are approaching the upcoming season.
“We’re very ready to get back to our winning ways,” said Rubisch.
Of course there are changes with the team too headed to the new season start.
To start with veteran Chris Corbeil left via free agency to Toronto, where he is on the sidelines with a long term injury.
“We’ve been roommates on the road the last 10 years,” said Rubisch, who said any team has to miss a presence like Corbeil.
“On the floor he is one of the top players in the game,” said Rubisch, adding Corbeil is a leader in a dressing room too. “. . . He was a great pillar of the organization.”
While Corbeil leaves a hole, Rubisch said it’s a case where roster changes happen.
“And change is not a bad thing,” he added.
It does mean some younger players will need to step up with bigger roles.
“There’s more opportunity for young guys to step into roles,” said Rubisch.
While most young players still need to develop at the NLL level, Rubisch said there are a lot of young players who arrive with a very strong foundation these days.
“The young guys are so good and so talented,” he said, adding he feels there are young Rush players who are ready to contribute more.
Another change on note is the arrival of Alexis Buque from Vancouver to guard the goal along with returning veteran Eric Penney.
Rubisch said having two veteran netminders sets up some good competition, adding Cameron Dunkerley and Saskatchewan’s own Laine Hruska give the Rush a lot of depth in goal.
“All of them are capable,” he said.
The current camp is also the first with Jimmy Quinlan in the head coach role from the outset.
“It hasn’t been that much different,” said Rubisch, adding Quinlan has a good personality for a camp. “He has a way he can connect with players and make everybody feel comfortable, but still expect a lot. He’s brought a new energy to training camp.”
Coming out of camp Rubisch said the Rush have to be ready to win from the first game.
“I think in this league the margin for error is so small,” he said, adding training camp has been very focused on details. “. . . And, we can’t come out to a slow start again.”
That will mean paying attention to doing the little things right.
“It’s doing the little things right,” offered Rubisch. “From the first game – pay a little more attention to detail.”
Rubisch said from camp they seem to be on the right path.
“All the vibes in camp are good,” he said.
The Rush start the regular season Dec. 3, hosting the Colorado Mammoth.