After their comeback fell just short last week in Buffalo, the Edmonton Rush (0-1) will be looking to grab its first win of the season during the team’s home opener at Rexall Place on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET against the like-minded Minnesota Swarm (0-1), also seeking its first win. Watch the Minnesota at Edmonton game by clicking here.
“For us, the big thing is playing those full 60 minutes,” said Rush assistant coach Jimmy Quinlan on what the team has to improve on from last week. “Then we have to be a little harder and more determined.”
Last week, the Rush found themselves down 8-3, but took control of the game in the second half thanks to the Bandits getting into some late penalty trouble. The Rush ended with four power play goals, but it was not enough to tie the game as they lost 9-8.
Edmonton’s transition game, an important part of last year’s success, did not execute as well as the team would have liked.
“We had some very good chances in the second quarter there that we just didn’t execute well so for us it’s just going to be getting back to the basics,” Quinlan said. “We’re a team that likes to pride ourselves on playing defense first and then getting honest transition. No major adjustments will be made, we might need to run a little harder at times.”
This week’s game against the Swarm will keep up the high-flying pace. But Quinlan and the Rush are prepared.
“We know they like to run, we like to run,” he said. “In what we’ve seen from Minnesota and what we know from the past is that they’re a young team with lots of legs and they like to get out and get after things. Our focus is on us and making sure we take care of what we need to do. We know that the Minnesota Swarm are a very capable and skilled team and we’re going to have to be at our best to play with them Saturday night.”
Every team is playing for the win, but last week’s loss may have a silver lining for the team according to assistant captain Jarrett Davis. With a “championship or bust” attitude, there is a lot of pressure on this team to succeed.
“Honestly, I think that maybe the pressure is off us now that we lost that game,” Davis said. “As we learned last year, the only games that really matter are at the end of the season. We can just focus on getting better each week. We don’t have to worry about breaking any records or living up to any hype.”
With the team only scoring eight goals last week, the offense will be looking to create more space between themselves and the defenders. They ran a lot of plays that featured cutting, but more often than not the Bandits defenders were right there with them.
In his first NLL game forward Ben McIntosh, the first overall pick of the 2014 NLL Draft, was able to get on the score sheet with three goals, leading the team in that category.
On Saturday, it was announced that Swarm forward Logan Schuss, 2014 NLL Rookie of the Year and first overall pick from the ’13 draft, will return to the Swarm for this weekend’s game in Edmonton and should provide an added goal scoring spark.
Minnesota started the first game of the 2015 season with all the energy expected from a team trying to amend a disappointing 2014 season. However, the Swarm weren’t able to hold on and fell to the Colorado Mammoth last week in a fateful fourth quarter.
“We came out with the energy we wanted in the first half and then continued on and even answered the bell with a quick run in the start of the third,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “Unfortunately for us and for our fans, it didn’t come out the way we wanted it to.”
One particular factor for the Swarm loss was its special teams play. Not only was Minnesota unable to connect on any of its four powerplay opportunities, they allowed the Mammoth four shorthanded goals in addition to two powerplay goals.
“That was a real de-motivator and I don’t see that happening ever again,” said Sullivan of the team’s performance with the man advantage.
Undeterred by the home opener loss, the Swarm will be back to give it all they’ve got against Edmonton this weekend. Fresh off a deficit that still showed signs of teamwork, opportunity and promise, Minnesota will be bringing all they learned to the table on Saturday.
“I thought there were a lot of positives that came out of the first weekend,” said Swarm assistant captain Transition Jordan MacIntosh. “We kind of identified where we need to clean things up. Going into this weekend, we’re going to focus on that.”
The team is confident that the struggles from last week’s fourth quarter serve as a firm reminder of where they need to tighten up their play going forward, and not a roadblock.
“Some opportunities showed us on the floor where we needed to clean things up and it’s nothing too big that we can’t fix,” Sullivan said. “I’m still confident that the guys have bought into the system, they tried to execute.”
The Swarm game plan is enhanced by the play of Miles Thompson, the rookie out of Onondaga Nation who put up a hat trick in his NLL debut last week. The phenom faces off against his older brother Jeremy for the first time since college, when Miles was on University at Albany and Jeremy played for Syracuse University. With the Thompson brothers so highly-regarded in lacrosse circles, the accolades that precede Miles suggest he will continue to deliver for his new NLL team.
“[Thompson] played well within the system and amongst the other guys,” Sullivan said. “For him to go out there and not only score, but feed the ball and move the way that he did, that was key. It was just a real pleasant surprise to have him come out there and do what he did in the first game so quickly and have such an impact.”
Other notable performers from the Swarm offense were forwards Shayne Jackson (4+3), assistant captain Callum Crawford (2+3), Corbyn Tao (2+0) and Dean Hill (2+1). MacIntosh (0+1) recovered 20 loose balls and David Earl (1+1) scored the first goal of the season while collecting nine loose balls. Team captain Andrew Suitor (0+2) picked up eight loose balls and didn’t disappoint fans with his tenacity, spending nine minutes in the box – including five minutes for a fighting major in the fourth quarter.
As Minnesota prepares for the contest this weekend, they will need to look to the teamwork of each player to contribute for success against the Rush, who are coming off a tough loss and will be anxious for a win in front of their home crowd. While the Swarm feel confident they are able to compete, they recognize the challenge they face going into this weekend.
“We’re watching a lot film and trying to get ready for a really strong Edmonton team,” said MacIntosh.
“They’ve got such a good balance, it’s on both sides of the floor that they’re dangerous,” Sullivan said. “So we’re going to have our hands full.”
Story by Mike Wilson (@RushBeat) & Maria Jollie (@SwarmBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Dale MacMillan.