Over the course of an 18-game schedule, there’s going to be games like the one the Saskatchewan Rush had last Saturday.
They just weren’t in sync and wound up stumbling their way to a 16-11 loss to the Rochester Knighthawks. On the horizon is something that should give them a good jolt of adrenaline. After playing seven of their first 10 games this season on the road, the Rush are finally back at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, playing in front of the faithful Rush Nation, and taking to Co-op Field in another edition of the NLL’s Battle of the Prairies as the Calgary Roughnecks come to town.
Despite the loss to Rochester, the Rush still hold down top spot in the league’s overall standings as well as the West Division, and they’ve won four of their last five. The Rush also boast nine wins in their last 10 meetings against the Roughnecks – a stretch that featured eight straight verdicts for the Rush) and a 13-12 overtime victory back on January 27th in the first of three showdowns between the teams this season.
“I think any time you beat someone eight times in a row, you have to have a little bit of luck on your side, but Calgary has been a team we play four times a year,” said veteran Rush defenceman Brett Mydske. “We always have a good game plan for them and everyone on the team is comfortable with their tendencies.”
The Rush were far from their best in Rochester. A quick 3-0 lead got them off to a solid start, but there were far more valleys than peaks the rest of the way. Starting netminder Evan Kirk got the hook after allowing eight goals on a night. There were turnovers, mistakes, miscues and errors all over the place. If it hadn’t been for a 4-for-4 showing on the power play, the Rush’s final deficit might have been far worse.
“We knew going into the game that Rochester’s record was not indicative of what kind of team they are, but we didn’t buy into it,” said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan.
“We thought it was going to be easy. We didn’t play well and they played extremely well. We were sloppy and we didn’t execute the defensive game plan we were supposed to. They got mid-range and perimeter looks but they were quality chances.
“Then in the fourth quarter, I thought we had the opportunity to tie it up and put ourselves ahead but we just made way too many poor decisions. We need to be better in those situations. We need to play like a championship team that I think we are and be more poised and make better decisions.”
Saskatchewan will certainly need to be sharper against the Calgary which has won three straight since dropping that overtime result to the Rush. Keenan is hopeful a good night of preparation will get his team headed in the right direction.
“We basically haven’t practiced in a month because of logistics and travel so we’re going to have a good practice on Friday,” said Keenan, whose team has played in a back-to-back and had a trek to the remotest spot on the NLL map in the past three weeks.
“I’m quite happy we’re playing Calgary next as opposed to any other team or having a bye week. It’s going to be a good challenge for us and we’re going to embrace that challenge. We’re going to practice better Friday and hopefully play better on Saturday.”