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Rush Are Ready for Ultimate Road Trip

It is often said that the road less traveled is the road that leads to success. The Saskatchewan Rush are hoping that this holds true as they embark on their unprecedented road trip.

Starting tonight, the Rush will play three games over the next six days, all on the road. This will not only be the first time in Rush franchise history that the team is playing that many games in such a short period of time, but it will also only be the second time in NLL history that a team will have played three (or more) regular season games in less than a week.

The Rush arrived on Long Island last night to prepare for their battle against the New York Riptide, which kicks off later this evening at 7:30 p.m. They will wash up quickly and aim to return to their hotel by 11 p.m. to gather their things and take a breather before heading to the airport for an early Sunday morning flight. Barring any delays, the team should arrive in Georgia around 11:30 a.m., giving them a couple of hours to put their things down at their next hotel before arriving at Gas South Arena in Duluth, Georgia, at about 3 p.m. for a 5:30 p.m. game.

It should be noted that Rush head coach Jimmy Quinlan said that his team requested the game to be pushed back on Sunday evening, but their request was denied.

After the conclusion of the Rush’s game in Georgia on Sunday night, many of the players who live on the East Coast are returning home for a few days as the ride up and down the coast is quick and straightforward. On the other hand, the West Coast players will all be traveling together from Georgia to Philadelphia (the site of their third game on the road trip) on Monday before the Rush play the Wings on Thursday night.

In the team’s history, the Rush have had grueling stretches similar to this one, but nothing quite compares. In 2007 and 2008, the Rush played four games in eight days, including back-to-back weekends with back-to-back games – Coach Quinlan was a member of both of those Rush teams.

Even having back-to-back games is uncommon for the Rush. The last time they played two games in two nights was in 2019. If you can believe it, the only current members of the Rush that were on that team five years ago were Robert Church, Mike Messenger and Ryan Keenan.

At some point in their careers, many Rush players likely would’ve experienced a jam-packed slate of games like the one they’re about to endure; minor and junior lacrosse events sometimes have youth playing two to three games in a day. But, regarding the pros, having two games, let alone three, in a week is seen as a mental and physical challenge.

For the more than half a dozen guys on the Rush roster who are 25 or younger, this extended trip is one that they are looking forward to. Rush transition player Jake Boudreau commented that being on the road for more than a week and bouncing around from game to game makes this stretch feel like an NBA or NHL road trip.

Riptide vs Rush 03-16-2024

“A lot of the guys are pretty excited,” Boudreau said. “It’s almost like the other professional sports leagues. We get to go on the road for seven or eight days and spend some time together. It’s what we’re big on right now, just spending time together and getting to know each other even more. We hope that translates to the floor. I think the vibes are great right now.”

Given the way this season has gone for the Rush, being on the road for three consecutive games isn’t the worst thing that could happen to them. In fact, the Rush have a better record on the road this season than at home – they are 3-2 on the road and 2-4 at home.

That road record includes their last road loss, a 15-14 overtime loss in Buffalo, which, by many standards, could be considered a moral victory. Boudreau addressed the team’s success on the road and their struggles at home this year.

“I think it’s not as much about our road success; it’s our home demise,” Boudreau said. “I think we’re a little bit too comfortable at home – we have it really good here with everything that goes on with the team, which makes us feel really comfortable. I think sometimes we think it’s going to be easy at home because everything else is easy.”

Coming into this road trip, the Rush have a 5-6 record and are on the cusp of being in the playoff picture. The Rush know they need to continue the winning run they’ve been on over the past couple of months – since February 1st, the Rush are 4-2 – if they want to compete in the postseason. There are seven games left on their docket, which is the most of any team in the league, meaning the Rush hold their fate in their hands.

As fun and exhilarating as this road trip might be (especially for the western guys), the team’s longest-tenured player, Robert Church, understands that this is a business trip, first and foremost.

“I think the goal is to come out of this road trip with three wins (two minimum),” Church said. “We’ve got seven games left, so we’ve got to win probably four or five out of seven to get us in the playoffs, and obviously, that’s the goal.”

In order to achieve their ultimate goal, the Rush can’t get ahead of themselves. They know they have three games in six days, but the only game that matters today is the battle against the Riptide. Having a one-game-at-a-time mentality will be needed during the Rush’s March to May. There is no better way to test the team’s mental and physical fortitude than a stretch like this. Coach Quinlan is ready to see what his team is made of.

“I think our big focus is obviously the game in New York, and we’ll worry about what comes next after that,” Coach Quinlan said. “For us, that’s really been our focus, which is just New York. We want to get the first one, and we want to go from there. I think this is a good test in terms of seeing physically and mentally what we’re made of.”

If the Rush pass this tough test, the team might hope that this road (trip) less traveled will be one that they frequent more often.

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