(Photo Courtesy of Saskatchewan Rush)
The Saskatchewan Rush have put together one of the best dynasties in the sport of lacrosse over the past decade. From their first championship in Edmonton to continuing their success in Saskatoon, Derek Keenan has proven to be a wizard as he has kept the Rush atop the NLL.
Despite their success, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for the Rush during this magnificent run. They lost the NLL championship in 2017 to the Georgia Swarm and got knocked out in the Western Division semifinals by the Colorado Mammoth last season. But even in their defeats, they have found ways to bounce back and get back to the top the next. And that is exactly what they are expected to do in 2019-2020.
Last season saw the Rush struggle in man areas, but the defensive end of the floor was by far the worst. The signature Rush defense just was not playing how we are used to seeing them play. And injuries and guys missing for an entire season certainly didn’t help at all. The good news this year is that the Rush defense of old should be back.
With Kyle Rubisch, Matt Hossack, and others back from last season, the Rush defense has a very solid foundation, despite Nik Bilic being dealt to Vancouver and Brett Mydske potentially not playing due to contract negotiations. But the biggest plus for this Rush defense may be Jeff Cornwall and Ryan Dilks coming back after missing all of last season.
It was clear that the presence of Cornwall and Dilks was gravely missed by the Rush last season. From their first game until the end of the season it was obvious that they were struggling on the back end, in part because of those two missing. If either can come back and repeat their performance from 2018 it will be a huge plus for the Rush.
Additionally, having a healthy Evan Kirk in net will also be crucial for their defense this year. Kirk was pretty solid throughout the year, touting a .763 save percentage during the regular season. However, he suffered a lower-body injury near the end of the season that seemed to set him back and hurt his play in the playoffs. A healthy Kirk means huge dividends for the Rush.
Beyond their defense, the Rush have a very solid core up front, as well. With Mark Matthews, Ben McIntosh, Jeff Shattler, and Robert Church leading the way. This offense has been one of the best in the league and can certainly pull off a similar performance here in 2019-20.
Despite all the negatives that might have surrounded the Saskatchewan last season, 2019-20 looks to be very much a bounce-back season just like we saw in 2018. The Rush have the talent to make an NLL championship run. Now they just need to execute to make that a reality and continue to push this dynasty in a positive direction once again.