Toronto Rush Road Trip Preview

The Toronto Rush will begin their season with a grueling road trip that will include far more kilometers covered than hours slept. They’re looking forward to it. 

New York has, obviously, re-stocked their cupboards. With an influx of talent, the Empire are once again considered a favourite in the East, potentially even capable of challenging Toronto. I even spilled 2000 words on the subject. The Rush aren’t amused at their seemingly-perpetual status of ignored favourite.

“Everyone's talking about New York and how they've been signing all the big guys and making all the changes in the off-season. But over here we've been working really hard, and everybody's been putting in more work than I think anyone has in their entire career. Considering we have pretty much the exact same team, and we went to the final game, I think we're getting a bit overlooked,” explained Iain Mackenzie.

If they can come out with two dominant performances on the road trip, the Rush will be overlooked no longer.  

At practice on Wednesday night, the team was loose. They focused far more on execution than effort, even spending 20 minutes on simple reset throws. I’m not sure if many players broke much of a sweat, especially in the cold. That didn’t mean Coach Sachin Raina was all fun and games. He demanded focus from his players, and the team heard it after a point with multiple turnovers. 

Regardless, the Rush are focused on themselves instead of any opponent. Coach Raina even let a small group of players duck out early to play for 5th place in their intermediate basketball finals. They won, per a team source.

The Rush will leave Toronto Friday night, arriving in New York just early enough to catch some shut-eye before the first game. They will play Saturday at 7:00 PM EDT at Joseph F Fosina field. The Rush will then pile back onto the bus and drive to Philadelphia. The first pull will be in the afternoon on Sunday, at 1:00 PM EDT in A.A. Garthwaite Stadium. You still have time to buy tickets in either New York or Philadelphia.  


To help discuss the New York game, Isaiah Bryant, a long-time player with the Empire, and first-year assistant coach, was kind enough to offer his time. 

Louis Zatzman: It's time. Game one. On a scale from premier of Black Panther to premier of Isle of Dogs, how excited is everyone on the Empire? 
Isaiah Bryant: Starting off with a weird one, eh... I like it! We're at premier of Avengers Infinity War. The team is definitely excited to get out there and play against someone else. Who better than the East Division Champs, Toronto Rush?
Louis: New York's offence did not live up to potential in 2017. When I spoke with Eileen Murray before the season, she mentioned improving familiarity between players and defining expectations as ways to tighten up the offence. How specifically has the team been addressing that coming into game one? 
Isaiah: In 2017 we never had the same offensive personnel from game to game due to injuries or other obligations, so building that familiarity was tough. This year Eileen has Empire doing more team workouts and off-field team building events. The culture already feels 10x better than last year. 
Louis: CJ Ouellette's finally out from the burdensome weight of coaching expectations. He seems happy to again just be a player, and then you jump in and convert yourself into a coach? CJ must be steamed that you didn't just go ahead and become a coach last year. 
Isaiah: Ha! CJ better be careful, I hear we need a game-day announcer. But in all seriousness, CJ stepped up when no one else would, including myself. While I know he's happy to be a player again, I wouldn’t be surprised to find him coaching a team in the future.
Louis: Ben Burelle might be leading the AUDL in business jokes at Beau's expense. How are you game planning to get Beau isolated on Ben so he can take out some of his pent-up frustration in the air? 
Isaiah: I've not heard of Ben's "jokes", but if you're talking about his tweets, they're average at best. There is no game planning to have Beau matchup with Ben for some personal vendetta. 

Editor’s note: Ben Burelle will not be with the Rush on their first road trip. 


To help set the stage for the Philadelphia game, Trey Katzenbach, the player-coach-everything of the Phoenix, was generous to speak with me. 

Louis Zatzman: So player and coach. How does it feel? When you throw your one turnover of the season, who gets mad at you? For real though, how do you never turn the disc over?

Trey Katzenbach: I have actually been trying to take on less of an active leadership role in the last few years to give some of the younger guys more of a voice. But when Eileen Murray moved on to New York and no perfect candidates stepped up to run the team, it fell on my shoulders. I have been lucky to work with a new general manager in Mike Arcata and two assistant coaches in Dave Hampson and Nate Venditta, who are doing excellent jobs and hopefully will shoulder a lot of the game day responsibilities. 
I actually disagreed with the scorekeepers on my two throwing turnovers last year (I did have one drop). As far as I'm concerned, I didn't have throwaways last year. I come from a basketball background, and I play the same way on the basketball court...lots of rebounds, loose balls, and assists. 
Louis: Eileen is gone to New York with Brownlee. We know Philly's new coach (you), but who will be the newest scoring leaders for the club? 
Trey: Sean Mott is actually returning to the Phoenix this year, and I expect another huge year for him. He has been such a good player in the area for so long that you forget how young he is. I expect the same dynamic throwing and scoring from him, with a higher completion percentage. While we lost quite a bit of talent from last year’s team, we were able to return Mott, Mike Arcata, Eric Nardelli, Scott Xu, and Matt Esser. I think they will all have big years for us. We were also able to recruit some players from Philly's club team, Patrol, and I think they will have a huge impact on the team. I expect Himalaya Mehta, Ethan Peck, Ethan Fortin and Nick Patel to be major contributors for us. 
Louis: Is this a rebuilding season for Philly?
Trey: I am not going into the season thinking it is a rebuilding year. We can build on the number of wins from last year. I think we will struggle a little early in the season as we get used to a lot of new players and the pro game, but I hope to be playing for a playoff spot by the end of the season.
Louis:  You had some big wins over DC and Montreal last year, but none against the Rush. The Rush have long been a juggernaut in the East. What are players' mindsets going into yet another Rush game? 
Trey: I think Toronto has separated themselves ever further from the rest of the East this year. They are talented, athletic, experienced, and tested. That being said, I am less interested in how Toronto plays and more interested in how we handle ourselves. We have some competitors that won't care who we are playing and some younger players that have no idea who is across the line from them to even get nervous.

Toronto Rush Lineups and Notes:

Starting Offence:         Starting Defence:

Thomson McKnight

Jeff Lindquist 

Adrian Yearwood 

Cam Harris

Andrew Carroll  

Connor Armstrong 

Jay Boychuck

Mark Lloyd

Isaiah Masek-Kelly

Jeremy Norden

Bretton Tan

Mike Mackenzie

Jaret Meron

Marijo Zlatic

News: Mark Lloyd, Winnipeg resident, will be with the Rush for this road trip. He won’t be able to make every game, but he will massively impact any game in which he plays. Obviously. He’s Mark Lloyd. 

Noteworthy missing pieces: Ben Burelle, Justin Foord    


New York Empire Lineups:

Starting Offence:  Starting Defence:

Harper Garvey

Josh Alorro

Ben Katz

Ben Jagt   

Jibra Mieser

Conor Kline

Beau Kittredge

Jeff Babbitt

Mike Drost

Ryan Drost

Matt Lemar

Shashank Alladi

Peter Kalmakis

Ryan Holmes

Philadelphia Phoenix Lineups:

Starting Offence:  Starting Defence:

Scott Xu

Trey Katzenbach

Ethan Peck 

Himalaya Mehta 

Sean Mott 

Mike Arcata

Greg Strouse

Nick Patel

Dustin Damiano

Matt Esser

Eric Nardelli

Allen Michel

Brice Dunn

Vince Reydams


The lines: Tor (-2.5) vs NY (+2.5) and Tor (-5.5) vs Phi (+5.5), per AUDL Pick’em