Rush look to continue success

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:01 PM ET

The Edmonton Rush are ready to pick up where they left off.

After being an overtime goal away from hosting the championship in the NLL franchise’s inaugural playoff run last year, the squad wanted to get a head start on the 2010-11 season.

So head coach and general manager Derek Keenan took a different approach to training camp this year.

“We didn’t have a huge number at camp to begin with, by design,” said Keenan, who only invited 27 players to their first training camp session in Ontario at the end of November. “A tighter, smaller camp is much preferred because we can not only pare things down very quickly, but also start working on our systems.”

Twenty-six are in attendance this weekend, as the squad returned to its headquarters at the Leduc Recreation Centre where they will make their final cuts this weekend.

After holding a pair of weekend training sessions in Ontario over the past month, the Rush have returned to the territory they will defend in the upcoming season.

But before that can happen, they need to finalize their 23-man roster by Tuesday.

“This is our first session out here, but our third one together,” said Keenan. “It made sense from a financial perspective.”

Not only because 14 players, as well as two coaches, live in Ontario, but it also afforded the team an opportunity to play an exhibition game against the Rochester Knighthawks, which they won 15-11, that otherwise wouldn’t have happened if the team was in Alberta.

“We pretty much played everybody,” said Keenan, who watched the game from the stands instead of his usual spot behind the bench. “Pretty much what you saw is what you’re going to get.”

Meaning the Rush are ready for redemption following an overtime loss to the Washington Stealth to miss the championship round by the narrowest of margins.

“I definitely felt there was a sense of unfinished business there,” said Rush captain Brodie Merrill. “It’s funny because this year’s training camp hasn’t really felt like a training camp. We didn’t have that many guys trying out for the team. We’ve been able to get down to business right away and it felt more like practices and more like just preparing for that opening game.

“I’ve noticed that to be a difference, and even in other teams in the past, where it takes a little while to kind of form your team and get down to it. This year, it’s been pressure to get started right away.”

All the new faces that came in last year to help turn the team around now share a veteran familiarity with each other, with the league and with Edmonton.

“Any time you’re in a new situation, there’s always a period of adjustment,” Merrill said. “But it seems pretty seamless this year, we’ve got the same group of core guys back. It was really fun to come back and see each other and really hit the ground running in training camp.”

FAMILY MATTERS: Rush 2010 leading scorer Ryan Ward was the only one who didn’t play in the exhibition game against Rochester.

“His wife had a baby that week, so he stayed home,” said Keenan.

Veteran defender Derek Suddons is the only player who won’t be in attendance this week.

“His brother’s getting married somewhere down south,” Keenan said.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/Gerry_EdmSun


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