After the Edmonton Rush’s 11-10 win over the Toronto Rock for the franchise’s first championship, National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame writer Neil Stevens caught up with Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan to reflect on the Champion’s Cup Finals series win on Lacrosse Magazine.
“Derek Keenan is relying on his time-tested and guaranteed-to-please means of relaxation in winding down after a nailbiting conclusion to the NLL season,” Stevens writes.
He’s gone fishing.
Coach Keenan completed his last interview, shook the last hand and headed for Edmonton’s airport after his Rush defeated the Toronto Rock 11-10 Friday night. A flight at 12:30 a.m. local time landed him in Toronto at 6 a.m. EDT. He made his way to a parking lot, turned a key in the ignition of his blue-grey 2009 GMC Sierra pickup and five hours later he was across the Ottawa River headed down a dirt road for 20 minutes until getting to La Reserve Beauchene, a 50,000-acre anglers’ paradise that includes 40 lakes near Temiscaming, Quebec. He’ll be there with three buddies until Wednesday.
“I love to fish,” he explains. “It’s been my pastime for a long, long time – since I was a little kid. I’ll have peace of mind.”
And, he said without a hint of doubt in his voice, plenty of bass and trout.
We asked Keenan en route to La Reserve Beauchene to go through his lineup numerically and offer comments on each of the men he sent out onto the green carpet for the win that earned Edmonton its first Champion’s Cup, and he patiently obliged. Here we go:
2. Brett Mydske. “He did what he always does – e the most consistent defender on the floor. He picked up the last loose ball of the game and finished the game off. He’s a fearless guy. He blocks a lot of shots. He’s typical of our whole group. He’s hard to play against if you’re an offensive player.”
4. Kyle Rubisch. “The last month of the season, he was something special to watch. He was all over the floor knocking down passes, intercepting passes, moving the ball up the floor. He did a great job on their left side with Josh (Sanderson), (Colin) Doyle and (Stephan) Leblanc. He was fantastic.”
6. John Lintz. “He’s the only Edmonton native on the team in the six years I’ve been there and probably one of the most underrated defenders in the league. He’s a solid, solid defender who continues to get better. You grow up playing lacrosse in Alberta, you don’t always play at the highest level, but he made the effort to play at the highest level. He’s another guy on our back end who made a major contribution last night.”
10. Riley Loewen. “He’s a guy who flies under the radar because he doesn’t put up the points that (Zack) Greer and (Mark) Matthews put up. But he’s on that left side creating space for them. He was good in these playoffs.”
13. Jeff Cornwall. “Jeff started us off with our first goal of the game on a quick break. He’s one of the few guys in the league who can do it that well. He ran past three players. He’s a powerful runner. He played great defense all night, too. We challenged him earlier in the season and even sat him out for a game and he responded. He was just outstanding throughout the whole playoffs and again last night. We had a lot of scoring chances early in the game but (Rock goalie Brandon) Miller was awesome. Then Jeff broke through and got us going.”
16. Chris Corbeil. “Chris provided great leadership all season. He’s a great teammate. He plays great defense on the right side, pushes the ball in transition . . . he had some scoring chances Friday night. He’s a special player and a great person, too.”
Keenan lost wife Wendy to cancer Jan. 2 and, in recognition of the trials and tribulations they’ve shared, he was the first person Corbeil handed the title trophy to after accepting it from commissioner George Daniel.
“That was a nice gesture on his part. That’s him, right. As our captain, I talk to him a lot. We’re pretty close.”
17. Robert Church. “He’s a dandy, that guy. The way he plays, he’s got great passion, great skills, quick hands. He’s another really great kid. It’s a pleasure to coach him. He wants to learn. He’s a sponge.”
23. Jarrett Davis. “Jarrett does all the dirty work and more _ transition rushes, defense, shutting off transition. He scored a huge goal in Game 1 in Toronto. He does all the little things well. He just plays hard all the time loose balls off faceoffs, digging in corners. He’s part of our leadership group. He always brings the full 100 per cent. Never takes a shift off.”
24. Ryan Dilks. “We call him MiniRubisch. He does a lot of the things Rubisch does but he’s a smaller guy. Loose balls, leading breakouts, shutting guys down…he did it all again last night. He’s a consistent performer.”
30. Tyler Carlson. “Honestly, and even though he’s our backup goalie, he’s probably the best team guy I’ve ever had. The guys love him. He’s so positive. He’s great on the bench. He’s one of those guys you want to be around. He’s all about the team. He didn’t play very much but there wasn’t one second he questioned his role. He was happy to be a part of the team.”
33. John LaFontaine. “I feel great for Johnny. He’s one of my kids from junior. He was in and out of the lineup. Then, when Nik Bilic got hurt, Johnny moved in and played so well that, even though Nik probably could have played Friday if we needed him to, it was our gut feeling to go with what we had. John plays hard all the time.”
42. Mark Matthews, who scored five goals and was named the game’s MVP. “He wasn’t bad last night, eh? You know what they say about the great ones: they perform in the big games and last night was a big game. He basically carried us from…