Preview: Rush stress patience vs. high-tempo Bandits

Saskatchewan Rush forward Mark Matthews (right) carries the ball against the New England Black Wolves during their Dec. 23, 2017 game in Saskatoon. Photo courtesy of Clark’s Crossing Gazette/Facebook.

The Saskatchewan Rush will once again put their perfect record on the line, this time Friday night in Saskatoon against this visiting Buffalo Bandits in National Lacrosse League action.

The Rush (4-0) are coming off a 17-12 road win against the Colorado Mammoth last Saturday. Meanwhile, the Bandits (2-3) narrowly lost to the Vancouver Stealth 11-10 in overtime on Saturday, too.

Come Friday at 7:30 p.m. CST from the SaskTel Centre, the Rush will be expecting a quick pace from the Bandits.

“They play a really high-tempo game,” Rush head coach Derek Keenan said. “They’ve got some real talented guys on offence in Dhane Smith, Mitch Jones and Callum Crawford.”

Through five games this season, those three players have 27, 20 and 20 points, respectively.

“They really push the tempo and transition. And we have to make sure that we really take care of that and be patient on offence and not turn the ball over a lot,” Keenan explained.

Buffalo’s tendency for scooping up turnovers – especially high in their defensive end – means “they turn them into transitions and odd-man opportunities going the other way on offence.”

Equally challenging is the Bandits’ defensive play.

“They like to pressure a bit, but they play packed in pretty tight. They just kind of get out and run out of that (on the transition),” Keenan said.

Given Buffalo’s defensive strategy, he doesn’t expect his squad to be left with a lot of open holes or zones around the Bandits’ net, he explained.

For more on this story, please see the Jan. 19 print edition or e-edition of the Daily Herald.