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By Scott Zerr, Saskatchewan Rush, 06/06/17, 1:30PM MDT


The Saskatchewan Rush know they need to be better. Why would you bet against them?

Game 1 of the 2017 NLL Champion’s Cup didn’t go according to plan for the Rush as they dropped an 18-14 result to the Georgia Swarm on Sunday. With Game 2 on the horizon, the two-time defending league champions have their backs against the wall, down a game in a best-of-three series. There’s no room for error left anymore. Game 2 has become a must-win in order to keep their season and threepeat hopes alive.

The Rush did a lot right in Game 1 especially scoring 14 goals which should normally get you the win. The loss can be chalked up to carelessness which the Rush hope to fix when they return home on Saturday for what should be a raucous evening at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.

“We know we’re a better team than that,” said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan. “It was a weird game. In spurts we were really good and could have completely taken over the game but we made too many mistakes – mainly unforced turnovers.

“We had 28 turnovers and 21 of them were unforced. We basically threw the ball away.”

And in the end, the game was thrown away. The Rush jumped out quickly in the third expanding their halftime of two up to four on goals by Robert Church and Adam Jones. At that point, it looked as though Saskatchewan might just have everything going their way. Then things unraveled.

Giveaways – ranging from faceoff fouls to throwing the ball to absolutely nobody – did the Rush in. The uncharacteristically sloppy play kept the Saskatchewan defence on the floor far too long and wound up running their gas tank dry by early in the fourth quarter. The miscues also kept the Rush’s offence from getting more opportunities as the hot hands of Church, Jones, Mark Matthews and Curtis Knight were unable to rack up more scoring chances.

“Obviously Georgia is a very good team but we gave them so many extra possessions because of mental mistakes and errors. We made a lot of poor decisions and just kept putting ourselves in trouble,” said Keenan.

But the Rush aren’t done yet by any means. This is a team that rarely loses two games in row and had won nine straight playoff games before dropping Game 1. They’ve also proven during their back-to-back championship reign that they can win the most pressure-packed encounters in front of them.

“We’re a championship-weathered team and we’ve always been able to bounce back after a tough loss,” added Keenan.

“These guys have a lot of pride and we have a great leadership group. I don’t think they’re going to feel any pressure. I think they’re going to have fun and I want them to enjoy it. I think they’re looking forward to the challenge. These guys rise to the occasion when there’s a challenge in front of them.”

One player certainly up for the challenge is Rush captain Chris Corbeil, who returned from injury and made his way into the lineup for Game 1.

“He’s a big part of things. He’s the leader,” noted Keenan. “He hadn’t played in five weeks but he’s got a game under his belt now and he’ll be better this week.”