Longtime National Lacrosse League veteran Frank Scigliano has seen his wardrobe undergo some big changes over the last few months.
As the former San Diego Seals goaltender said goodbye to the sandy beaches of California for the vast prairies of Saskatchewan, traded to the Saskatchewan Rush in a blockbuster deal over the summer.
“I think it’s refreshing. I’m coming from sandals to snow boots,” Scigliano said.
“This team is going to be looking to find their identity and we’re going to do that here over the course of the next couple of weeks.”
An ever-turbulent Saskatchewan crease was shored up with the 31-year-old, who was brought into the Rush organization in exchange for the rights to franchise defensive icon Kyle Rubisch, along with first- and second-round picks.
A veteran of close to 200 games in the NLL, Scigliano posted a sparkling 10-2 regular season record last season and will now wear the green and black of the Rush after playing for Western Conference rivals in San Diego and Calgary.
Saskatchewan Rush gearing up for 2023-24 season
“Obviously, it feels pretty familiar coming back to Saskatchewan,” Scigliano said. “I had a lot of games here as an opponent, so it’s been refreshing being on this side of the ball and putting green on. I’m definitely excited for it.”
Scigliano is one of several new faces to the Rush organization after the team failed to make playoffs for the second season in a row, finishing with an 8-10 record.
That result forced the hand of general manager Derek Keenan to trade away several pieces of Saskatchewan’s core including Rubisch, Mark Matthews, Matt Beers and Dan Lintner in the hopes of getting younger and quicker.
Rush head coach Jimmy Quinlan is now getting used to a new crop of players expected to carry the load, which is being tackled this month in training camp ahead of the 2023-24 season.
“With all the changes I think that speaks for itself,” Quinlan said. “We needed to get younger, we needed to get more athletic, we needed to get bigger and we feel like we’ve done all that. Now the biggest piece is just coaching the players because a lot of the guys we brought in have less experience than the players we moved out and they’re a little bit younger.”
Up front, the Rush will be led once again by Robert Church and Ryan Keenan; however, they will have one of the sport’s brightest talents joining the mix as 2022 NLL Rookie of the Year nominee Patrick Dodds joins Saskatchewan after posting 22 goals and 50 points in 18 games with Panther City Lacrosse Club.
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Adding to the team’s attack in 2023-24 will be Zach Manns, acquired in the Mark Matthews deal after leading all Toronto Rock forwards in playoff scoring last year with three goals and nine points in just three games.
“Obviously, I’m honoured that they took into my ability and saw that I may have a bright future,” Manns said. “So I’m just really happy to be here. I think it’s going to be a great rebuilding, but I think we also have a chance to make a playoff push this year for sure.”
Also brought into Saskatchewan as part of the Matthews trade was defender Adam Jay, who said his experience in Saskatoon over the weekend at training camp was better than he even expected.
“Being here, it just feels like a fresh start,” Jay said. “This city, the town, lacrosse is big here and I didn’t really realize it. I knew they had a great crowd, but I’m in awe really.”
New faces to the Rush this season will also include towering forward Mike Triolo, former Buffalo Bandit Nathaniel Kozevnikov and ex-Panther City scorer Cameron Wengreniuk.
For Jay, who is entering his fifth season in the league, it’s one of the youngest locker rooms he’s been a part of during his professional career.
“It’s kind of weird because I just turned 28 in the summer and I think I’m actually one of the older guys on the team,” Jay said. “So it’s different, but it’s great.”
Despite the new surroundings, Scigliano committed to Saskatchewan, signing a multi-year contract with the club following his trade north of the border.
He is aiming to be a part of the new identity for the Rush, which he hopes will lead the team back into the postseason for the first time since 2019.
“I signed a two-year deal here and I want to be a big part of the change here as we go forward,” Scigliano said. “A lot of teams, I think, are going to count us out, but I’d say look out for us — especially with the way the new layout of the season is, you play everyone, so anything can happen.”
One more pre-season game lines the schedule for Saskatchewan as they’ll host the Calgary Roughnecks in Moose Jaw on Nov. 25, a game that Quinlan will be watching closely to see who will be ready for the opening faceoff of the 2023-24 campaign.
“We saw a lot of good things last weekend in Toronto in our exhibition game, but also a lot of things we didn’t like,” Quinlan said. “We’re working on cleaning those things up so that next weekend in Moose Jaw we’re ready and come Dec. 1 in Halifax, we have a good showing.”
Following Saskatchewan’s first regular season game on the road against the Halifax Thunderbirds, they’ll return to SaskTel Centre for their home opener on Dec. 9 versus the Rochester Knighthawks.
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