The first weekend of training campis in the books for the Saskatchewan Rush.
Head Coach Jimmy Quinlan ran three practices and video sessions with the 30 players looking to earn their spot in the National Lacrosse League.
“We challenged the players to come in the best shape they’ve been in years and they answered that. I thought the tempo was high even in our third session of the weekend,” said Quinlan. “When you’re evaluating players, you hope your eyes aren’t lying to you in what you’re seeing. Guys like Zach Manns, Adam Jay, Patrick Dodds and Mike Triolo, the guys we brought in were excellent both athletically and physically, so that excites us.”
Of those competing for a spot on the team, 2023 second-round pick Jake Bowen got to step on the floor with NLL talent for the first time in his career.
“It was awesome. Coming in here, I really didn't know what to expect, but just throwing the ball around with the boys and getting into it, I felt great out there and I’m really excited to see what happens for the rest of camp,” commented Bowen. “There are so many good guys on this team and veterans who've been in the league for a while, so I’m just learning off them and improving my IQ. Doing whatever I can to just soak all the information up.”
For a forward group that only has three returnees from last season, the newcomers needed to shine, and they certainly did that, especially Patrick Dodds.
“It takes some time to learn how to play with new guys, no matter who it is. So just knowing a few of the guys already and playing with a couple of them just helps,” Dodds mentioned. “Hopefully I have some film to watch this week so going into next weekend I can be all the more prepared.”
Nathaniel Kozevnikov will look to fill the hole after the Austin Madronic trade this summer, bringing a much more physical presence that will open up space for elite shooters like Robert Church and Patrick Dodds.
“There was a lot of good players on the team I was on last year, but behind the scenes I was just kind of getting buried,” Nate said. “So I’m excited to be out here and actually showcase what I can do.”
Mike Triolo was a standout forward over the weekend as well, using his 6’8 frame to drive around defenders, while having the outside touch to score from distance as well.
“Everyone came in shape here. Definitely a learning curve though right, you have to pick up things real fast, but this is the right group to do it with so I’m pumped to be here."
For the defenders, the main young core remains intact with Mike Messenger, Bobby Kidd III and Jerrett Smith anchoring the righties, while Holden Garlent, Connor McClelland, Jake Boudreau and Ryan Barnable will handle the bulk of the lift for lefties. Newcomer Adam Jay will certainly help add to the RH depth as he stood out as one of the best defenders on the floor during weekend one.
“It felt surreal almost. I was talking to Manns about it, I was just kind of saying it felt like a rookie year almost. Coming in, new group of guys, and I was so excited it felt great,” said Jay. “Just having our coaches tell us like don't be afraid to make mistakes really makes my game a lot better. I think this might be the most fun I've had in a longtime playing lacrosse.”
Other standouts included Isaac Ngyou who is back for his second season in green, Mike Mallory who has become a staple of reliability in a depth transition role, and Jamison Dilks who was acquired in the Dan Lintner trade.
Between the pipes, Frank Scigliano, Laine Hruska and Thomas Kiazyk all got their reps in and faced plenty of shots. With most NLL clubs bringing 4-5 goalies to camp, GM Derek Keenan was one of the few who only brought three to camp.
Weekend number two of training camp is back in Oakville, starting on Friday (Nov.10) and ending the following day with an exhibition game against the Toronto Rock.