After learning a hard lesson against the Buffalo Bandits, the Saskatchewan Rush are getting refocused in order to prepare themselves for a pivotal divisional matchup.
The Rush saw their unbeaten start to the 2018 NLL season come to a bitter end last Saturday as they surrendered several seemingly insurmountable leads only to fall 16-15 in overtime on their home turf to Buffalo – the second year in a row the Bandits have beaten the Rush at home in OT. Saskatchewan needs to get its act together, just like it had done to get them off to a 4-0 start to the season that featured road wins in Toronto, Georgia and Colorado.
The Rush are back on the road for the next two games beginning with this Saturday’s showdown at the Saddledome against the arch-rival Calgary Roughnecks. After letting a win slip away from them against the Bandits, the Rush have a big opportunity to get themselves back on the right path with a game against a heated nemesis. A week after the game in Calgary, the Rush pay a second visit upon the Colorado Mammoth in Denver.
“It won’t be easy to bounce back because as we learned once again that any team can win in this league,” said Rush defenceman Ryan Dilks, who picked up three assists in the game against Buffalo.
“Calgary is always a tough team to play at home and they’re another desperate team looking to get back in the win column as are we.”
Week in and week out, the Rush seem to be running into a desperate foe, even this early in the season. Saskatchewan did come out on top on the first two occasions, beating Toronto after the Rock had lost its opener, and then topping Georgia after the defending champs began the year with only one win in three starts.
The Roughnecks split their first two games but have lost three in a row since then. On top of that, the Rush have beaten the Roughnecks in eight of the last nine meetings so there’s added animosity on Calgary’s end. The Rush have let teams back into games so far this season, but most of the time, the opposition just made the final score a little closer in a game that really was rathe one-sided. Against Buffalo, however, the Rush got careless and let a sure win slip away.
“Honestly, I don’t think we played well the entire game and I told the team that at halftime,” said Rush head coach/GM Derek Keenan.
“We got bailed out so many times in the first half by (goalie) Evan Kirk. We were asleep on defence and getting outplayed in a lot of areas. We’re going to have to change some things that we did poorly. And it was veteran guys who were making mental and physical mistakes. But we’re still 4-1 and sometimes you need a game like that to give yourself a wake-up call.”
The Rush have talked about having a target on their backs for a long time, really ever since they became one of the best teams in the NLL and then going on to win back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016. But it’s easy to forget on occasion especially as the scoreboard indicates a dominating performance is in the works. Against Buffalo, the Rush were up 6-0 before the end of the first quarter and they restored a six-goal cushion by the time halftime rolled around. They grabbed their largest lead at 12-5 and then everything unraveled.
“It’s a game of momentum and we clearly lost a lot of it in the second half and it sort of snowballed on us and we ended up on the wrong side of things,” said Rush captain Chris Corbeil, who had two goals in the dramatic loss.
It’s not an easy recovery process, though the Rush won’t have to dwell on it for long. The Roughnecks will come gunning for them and an experienced, been-there-done-that team like Saskatchewan knows how to respond.
“We will be ready to bounce back after that loss,” said the Rush’s Ryan Keenan, who had a five-point effort against Buffalo.
“We had the game in our hands and let it slip away with continuous mistakes, especially in the fourth quarter. But it’s just about learning from it and moving on to a big division game against Calgary.”