It was an extra special night for one homegrown player when the Saskatchewan Rush returned to Saskatoon after the off-season.
Zach Gould scored his first National Lacrosse League (NLL) goal on the power-play during pre-season play as the Rush downed their arch-rivals, the Calgary Roughnecks, 17-11 on Dec. 8.
“That was definitely the coolest part when they announced my name there and said about the (Saskatchewan) SWAT and stuff like that,” said Gould, who was the last player picked in the 2018 entry draft.
“I love the SWAT program so it was great that they acknowledged that and acknowledged that I came from there so that was great.”
During the 2018 Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League season with the Saskatchewan SWAT, Gould led the junior A lacrosse team with 91 points.
Playing in front of friends and family can be a nerve-wracking experience. Gould, who hails from nearby Warman, Sask., experienced that feeling in his first professional lacrosse game in front of his hometown fans.
“I definitely had jitters. I was nervous. I didn’t want to mess up too much but the guys are great on offence and on defence. They help you through everything so it was no issue, really,” Gould said.
“It’s just crazy. Nothing that I could have ever thought or thought that could happen. It was all unbelievable for me and everything was new. It was crazy but it was awesome and I loved the atmosphere. It was just a great game.”
The forward played in his first NLL exhibition game against the Toronto Rock on Dec. 2 in Oakville, Ont., picking up two assists in a 12-12 tie.
Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan likes what he is seeing in Gould.
“Last week, first practice he was kind of nervous and I was kind of ‘ehhh,’ and then he just kept getting better and better,” Keenan said.
“This weekend he was really good and he scored a nice goal there which was great to see and he can play. He’s got real good instincts and he’s got good stick skills. You know he can play the game.”
In a league where most Canadian players come from Ontario and British Columbia, Gould is determined to prove his selection is about more than just his birthplace.
“I know coming in that to be picked that late from your hometown team, that’s what most people are going to think but came out there in training camp, battled my hardest and wasn’t going to back down or show anything that I wasn’t supposed to be here,” Gould said.
The journey is only beginning as Gould earned a spot on the Rush practice roster due to his strong performance at training camp.
“I hope I made an impression with the coaches but if they give me another chance to get better that’s all I can ask for,” Gould said.
The defending NLL champions will begin their 2018-19 regular season Dec. 28 on the road against the New England Black Wolves.