2021-22 PREVIEW: Saskatchewan Rush

When COVID-19 abruptly ended the 2020 season, the Saskatchewan Rush were in first place in the West Division, just as they had been in every other season since 2014.

Let that sink in for a moment: The Saskatoon Rush led their division during the regular season for five consecutive years and also won the division while in Edmonton in 2014 and 2015. Along the way, they have gone to the championship five times and won it all three times. That’s pretty good.

But that was then and this is now. The NLL is finally restarting after losing a season-and-a-half to the pandemic. There are new teams and there has been a ton of player movement around the league.

Can the Rush maintain their level of dominance after all this upheaval?

Saskatchewan has had some key losses, as has every other team. Snipers Marty Dinsdale and Ben McIntosh are now out of the picture, as well as faceoff specialist/transition star Jeremy Thompson. Former Goaltender of the Year Evan Kirk is also gone.

But the core pieces of this dynasty are still intact. Former NLL MVP Mark Matthews will continue to lead the offence, supported by Jeff Shattler (also a former MVP), Ryan Keenan, and Robert Church. This is still as good an offensive unit as there is in the league.

Coming out of the back door, the defence is once again stacked with talent. Kyle Rubisch, Chris Corbeil, Ryan Dilks, Jeff Cornwall, and Mike Messenger form a smothering, aggressive defence that can shut down just about anybody.

And they’ve added depth as well. Forwards Josh Currier and Dan Lintner are proven NLL talent, as is defenceman Matt Beers.

One of the question marks for the Rush will be between the pipes. Pete Dubinski and Adam Shute both have game experience in the league, but neither have been asked to be the regular starter. On the upside, the defence in front of them should contain most of the pressure for them.

The Rush begin their 2021-2022 season tonight, on the road against the Halifax Thunderbirds.