The Saskatchewan Rush appear ready to resume their quest to get back to the top of the National Lacrosse League.
The 2015 and 2016 Champion’s Cup winner will try to prove last year’s loss to Georgia in the final was just a one year blip beginning with Saturday’s season opener against the Rock in Toronto.
The Rush got off to a 0-2 start last season after winning a second straight NLL championship. Coach and general manager Derek Keenan was confident when training camp broke Saturday in Saskatoon, the team was more prepared mentally and physically for this season after a spirited and competitive camp.
“They’ve bumped it up a level, just played with a little more urgency in practice and we seem to have our tenacity back on the defensive end and that’s the difference I’ve noticed , I think our execution has been really good as well, but I think our tenacity seems to be back to where it was a couple years ago.”
Keenan attributed the increased intensity in part to tough battles for the final few roster spots, in addition to improved play by sophomores like 2016 first round draft choice, and son Ryan Keenan.
“We brought some young guys in that were really good and a couple of guys are still here on our practice roster and then our younger guys who were with us last year are a year older and a year better so it made things pretty crisp I thought throughout camp and I thought we got better every day we practiced and we’re ready to go this weekend in Toronto.”
The teams two second-round draft choices Nick Finlay and Johnny Pearson are on the practice roster.
The team is focused on a return to championship form and Kennan said to get there it will take a desire to improve steadily throughout the season. However, at camp’s conclusion, Keenan felt good about the team’s progress in areas like the speciality teams.
“We won two in a row there, each year coming back we had a bit of a slow start so we’ve been to the final three years in a row, we want to get back there again this year and we’re hoping to get a better start this year.”
The game Saturday in Toronto starts at 6 p.m. local time with the Rush Hour pregame show on 98-COOL getting underway at 5 o’clock.