Rush pumped for afternoon tilt

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:06 PM ET

EDMONTON - To the Edmonton Rush, it really doesn't matter when the game is being played.

The National Lacrosse League franchise has waited so long for a playoff encounter that they would be willing to play it in the early morning hours if need be.

As it stands, they’ll face the Calgary Roughnecks in the afternoon (1 p.m.) Saturday at the Pengrowth Saddledome, something different for a team accustomed to playing most of their regular-season games in the evening.

“I really like it, it reminds me when I was playing in college, all of our games were usually at 1 p.m. in the afternoon,” said Rush forward Brodie Merrill. “For me, travelling from the East, and being on that Eastern time clock, it's going to be nice. Hopefully I’ll be able to play with a little bit more energy.”

With the Calgary Hitmen scheduled to play the Tri-City Americans in the second game of the Western Hockey League final Saturday evening, the Rush and the Roughnecks drew the early start time.

This season the Rush played one afternoon game, edging out the Toronto Rock 14-13 at home in February.

“We played quite well in that game,” said Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan. “Our guys actually are real positive about it. I’m not sure why, but they’re really excited about playing in the afternoon.

“I think especially because we’re on the road. If you’re at home, it’s a little bit out of your routine. When you’re on the road, you really have to expect anything, and if anything, maybe it’s taking Calgary out of the routine.”

With the majority of players scattered throughout the country, neither team has the luxury of having a week of practice to build up for the game.

The Rush got together in Edmonton on Thursday for the first time in preparation for the encounter, and will head down to Calgary on Friday.

Normally teams have a morning shootaround the day of the game, then return to the rink later in the evening for the contest. With an afternoon start, there is no morning shoot around.

“It’s tough sometimes, especially with a playoff game, waiting around all day, sitting in your hotel room,” Merrill said. “For me, I personally like getting up, eating a good breakfast and then going to the rink to play. I’m going to enjoy it. I know everybody is different, with their routine, but I like it.”

The Roughnecks had one late afternoon game this season (3 p.m.), opening the year with a 12-7 win over the Minnesota Swarm. Apart from that, they’ve played the majority of their regular-season games in the evening.

Many players are creatures of habit and have specific routines they like to go through on game day.

Often goaltenders can be most affected by an earlier start time, especially considering they don’t get a chance to work out some kinks during a morning shoot around.

For Rush starter, Matt Disher, however, the start time is irrelevant.

“It doesn’t bother me one bit, I like to get the games going as soon as possible,” Disher said. “Rather than sitting around all day, I liked to get the game going, it gives you less time to think about it.

“Some guys have their routine, but I’ve never had one. To me the routine gets dull after a while if you’re sitting around waiting for the game to get going. Usually after the morning shoot around anyway, you just want to go out and play the game.”

Notes … The Rush office is taking orders for a second fan bus heading down to Calgary for Saturday’s game. The $55 price tag includes round-trip transportation and a ticket to the game. The bus leaves from the Cineplex Odeon South Common at 8:45 a.m., and will return following the contest.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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