Rush faces a must-win situation against Toronto Rock

The message seems simple for the Saskatchewan Rush ahead of Saturday night’s game against the Toronto Rock: win and you’re most likely in.

The Rush need a little help from the National Lacrosse League as both the Vancouver Warriors and the New York Riptide have the same record as the Rush and Panther City has one win left.

Vancouver managed to split the season series 1-1, but the Rush held the playoff tiebreaker against the Warriors.

The playoff picture could get a bit complicated if both Panther City and New York win, but the Rush aren’t too concerned about that as they control their own destiny.

Head coach Jimmy Quinlan said his team must enter Saturday night’s game with extreme desperation.

“Our season is on the line, (and) we look at it as a playoff game,” Quinlan said. “We have been good the last two weeks and played desperately.”

Quinlan said desperation lacrosse does the easy things that can be hard.

“Running on and off the floor – it doesn’t really take a lot of skill, but it is a choice,” Quinlan said. “(It’s about) playing physical on defense, coming through the middle (and) being aggressive when you have the ball or being aggressive to take the ball away.”

While the Rush practiced all week, the players treated Saturday’s game as a Game 7 in a playoff series.

“We’ve been playing that way a little bit the last few weeks,” Quinlan said. “We know the only way our season can continue is by winning.”

Preparations for the Rush this week were fairly similar, but Quinlan said coaches and players watched a little more film than usual.

The year didn’t start as well as the Rush hoped, going 1-4 in its first five games. The team eventually found its mojo and clawed its way back into the playoff picture.

Quinlan attributes that to everyone feeling comfortable with each other.

“We had some new players in new positions,” Quinlan said. “It was a bit of a matter of building continuity and learning from our mistakes.”

Despite needing a little help from around the league, the Rush don’t plan to follow too closely what the other three teams are doing.

“I won’t,” Quinlan said. “I’m sure they will be there one day and we will take a closer look at them. The only scenario we are looking at is that we have to win.”

“Even the whole week leading up to this, I’m not looking at what’s going on,” Rush defenseman Adam Jay added.

The Rush acquired Jay from Toronto in the offseason. Jay said facing his former team increases motivation.

“I have a lot of good relationships with those guys over there, but when it comes to playing time, there are no friends on the floor,” Jay said.

Jay said heading into the weekend, he and his teammates will have to approach this game as if it were a deciding game in a playoff series.

“One hundred percent, because that’s exactly what it is,” Jay said. “If we don’t win, we won’t play next week and that’s the ultimate goal.”

The energy in SaskTel Center when the Rush play is hard to match, so heading into the final game of the regular season, Jay said it’s important to get that energy going early.

“Saturday nights are my favorite here because the fans are great,” he said.