Ruest the Latest in Robert Morris-NLL Pipeline


Jacob Ruest, now a member of the Colorado Mammoth, played at Robert Morris under coach Drew McMinn from 2012-2015. He joins a group of former Colonials that have made it in the NLL.

Scoring two second-half goals put Jacob Ruest in a comfort zone by the time he finished his first NLL game.

"The whole week, I was constantly thinking about the game and visualizing the role I'd be playing," he said. "I didn't want to get away from what I was successful with in training camp."

Ruest was nervous, as any rookie would be, as game time approached for Colorado players in front of a large Buffalo crowd. But everything fell into place. With the Mammoth up 7-2, he fired an overhand shot through goalie Anthony Cosmo's legs from the top of the right side of the attack at 5:40 of the third quarter.

"That was off a quick pass from John Grant," he recalled. "It was pretty awesome to get my first goal on an assist from John Grant, who is somebody I grew up idolizing."

With the Mammoth up 11-7 in a game they'd win 12-8, Ruest shot from near the same place and the ball struck goalie Davide DiRuscio's arm before falling over the goal line at 12:05 of the fourth quarter.

"I got comfortable in the second half," Ruest said. "I took quick shots and I was lucky to have them drop. My confidence certainly went with the goals and, hopefully, I can keep improving every game."

The 25-year-old native of Cornwall, Ontario, is the latest NLL player to arrive via Robert Morris University in the Pittsburgh region. The program was introduced in 2005 and Colonials who preceded Ruest to the NLL include Andrew Watt, Mitch Wilde and Kevin Brownell of the Buffalo Bandits, Jeff Gilbert of the Toronto Rock, Kyle Buchanan of the New England Black Wolves, Kiel Matisz of the Georgia Swarm, Tyler Digby of the Calgary Roughnecks, Luc Magnan and Luke Laszkiewicz of the Rochester Knighthawks and James Rahe of the Vancouver Stealth.

"Kiel Matisz and Kyle Buchanan were leaders on that team when I arrived and they really made me feel comfortable," Ruest in a telephone interview after a workout at a Cornwall gym. "I'm really happy I made the decision to go there. It's a great program with a great coaching staff. I learned a lot."

Robert Morris head coach Drew McMinn "preached getting the little things right."

"There really is a snowball effect when you do the little things right. Drew is a very positive coach who ran a great offense."

Ruest has been playing box lacrosse since he was six or seven. He got his first all-in field lacrosse experience at The Hill Academy north of Toronto. He was on the Burlington team at the highest Ontario indoor junior level before moving up to the senior bracket with teams in Oakville and Cobourg in Ontario and Langley in British Columbia during his summers. He was selected 35th overall in the 2015 NLL draft by Calgary and was released during training camp, which was predictable given the Roughnecks have Curtis Dickson, Tyler Digby and Wes Berg on the right side.

Ruest was an unrestricted free agent when Mammoth General Manager Steve Govett snagged him last August. That was a big break for Ruest. After a good camp, and with Mike Mallory injured, he was inserted on the right side with Jeremy Noble and Callum Crawford for the season opener in Buffalo.

He is flying from Ottawa on Friday to settle in Denver for the NLL season. The Mammoth, owned by the group that also owns the NHL's Colorado Avalanche, is putting him up in a downtown hotel suite with new teammates Josh Sullivan, Jordan Gilles and Taylor Stuart.

"I got a couple of tips from Callum Crawford: don't overpack, and keep it as light as possible," Ruest said.

The Mammoth home opener is Saturday against Vancouver.

"It's a new experience and it's a lot of fun," Ruest said of his NLL infancy. "There's a lot more for me to learn but I'm enjoying it."

McMinn saw Ruest's game improve each year he was at Robert Morris.

"He turned into a dynamic player for us," said McMinn. "We brought him in as a right-stick finisher who was good around the net so he started out playing attack. With his athleticism, we moved him to play midfield and at times he was playing back and also on attack. He really turned into a very good overall player whereas originally he was a little more one-dimensional."

Ruest was impressive off the field as well.

"He's always extremely coachable and respectful," said McMinn. "He improved his game in many facets because of his coachability and willingness to learn. There is a light-hearted side to him, too."

McMinn keeps a recruiting eye trained on Canada. He has 16 Canadians on his current roster and a lot of them, like Ruest, have played lacrosse since they were boys.

"They already have a base in the sport," he explained.

So, it is not a surprise that many are NLL-ready when their Colonials days end.

"We run an offense suitable to their strengths," McMinn said. "A lot of our guys improve their box lacrosse in our system because we emphasize a lot of off-ball play. We pride ourselves in our off-ball movement. We get guys that are already good lacrosse players and our system helps them develop.''

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