RAPID CITY, SD — Could the Rapid City Rush continue their level of success against a top-tier opponent?
The Rush recently dropped two-of-three to the Idaho Steelheads, both shutouts, in their own barn and picked up five of a possible twelve points in that 6-game “home-and-away” series.
Enter the Utah Grizzlies.
A team which was a co-#1 team in the entire league and topped the Rush in their house 4-2 and 6-2 to kick off the 2018 season.
But, as Rush head coach Daniel Tetrault has expressed numerous times in interviews leading up to this series, the team the Grizzlies faced this weekend was a far different squad than the one they squared-off against back in mid-October.
Wednesday, November 28th
The Grizzlies came out firing on all cylinders to start the series, pocketing the first goal just 0:31 into the contest on a shot fired by Kevin Davis which was deflected by Josh Dickinson past Rush netminder Adam Carlson. The Rush were unfazed, however, as Tyler Poulsen squared the contest back up at the 9:05 mark of the frame.
The goal ended a shutout streak by Grizzlies’ netminder Joe Cannata which went back to November 16th against the Indy Fuel, totaling 202:23 of keeping the opposition scoreless. Utah then tacked on two additional goals to take a 3-1 lead into the middle frame.
Both teams would trade off a pair of goals in the 2nd period, including a pair of power-play goals from the Rush, to carry the two-goal advantage for Utah into the final frame.
The Rush’s level of “never say die” went into overdrive after Poulsen picked up his second goal of the night with 12:42 left in regulation. Carlson was pulled with under two minutes remaining for the extra attacker. Bradon Mashinter picked up the game-tying score with 1:29 left in the game, which also secured his second “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” with the Rush this season, to send the game into extra hockey.
After a scoreless overtime and both netminders standing strong during the first two rounds of the subsequent shootout, the game was on the stick of Poulsen who buried the game winner on Cannata’s blocker-side to pick up the second point in the standings for Rapid City and secure a 6-5 win.
Friday, November 30th
Utah stepped up its tempo in Game 2 of the series, jumping out to a 1-0 lead at the 10:06 mark of the opening period with a goal from Jack Walker.
Rapid City responded in a big way in the middle frame picking up a pair of goals just over three minutes apart. The first came from Poulsen at the 2:35 mark and the go-ahead goal was scored by Shaquille Merasty at 5:49. The lead was short-lived, however, as Utah responded with a pair of goals of its own; Cole Ully was able to bury a rebound shot at 7:19 to square the game back up and Matt Berry put the Grizzlies back on top 3-2 at the 11:35 mark.
As the third period wore on things looked bleak for the Rush, still down by a single score as the clock ticked down. Garrett Klotz provided the heroics for the Boys from the Black Hills, as the Rush rallied once more. Klotz snuck a rebound by Utah netminder Kevin Carr with little time left in regulation.
It was yet another netminder clinic as neither team could secure the win in overtime, so a second-consecutive shootout was on order.
The winds of change favored the visitors, however, as Tim McGauley picked up the eventual game-winner in the first round for the Grizzlies while all three Rush shooters were denied on their respective opportunities.
With both teams picking up shootout wins, and the brewing tensions between the two clubs, it would make for an epic series finale on Saturday night.
Saturday, December 1st
The rubber-match was sure to be a roller coaster ride of emotions after the first two games of the series went to a shootout. Could the Rush rise to the occasion against one of the best teams in the league, or would they falter in the series finale?
Rapid City was hosting their annual Guns-n-Hoses Night along with their 11th Annual Teddy Bear Toss, a big crowd/community favorite.
The honor of triggering the shower of stuffed animals went to D-Man and team captain Riley Weselowski. With 12:12 gone by in the opening frame, Wezzy fired a one-timer by Cannata and became just the 3rd defenseman in organization history to score the first goal for the teddy bear toss.
Rapid City would add goals in each of the remaining periods – a power-play goal from Merasty in the 2nd and an empty-netter in the 3rd from Pierre-Luc Mercier – while netminder Carlson stopped all 33 shots faced to give the Rush a clean two-points in their 3-0 series finale win.
Teddy Bear Success
Triggered by Wezzy’s goal in the opening period Saturday night, a total of 1,239 stuffed animals were collected for Youth and Family Services. This is the 11th season the Rush have sponsored this event and it has quickly become a crowd and community favorite.
Strength Between the Pipes
As Tetrault discussed in an interview before the Idaho series last month, the Rush have finally found a good 1-2 punch (and a solid reserve) between the pipes with Carlson, Michael Bitzer, and Tyler Parks.
Through this weekend’s series with Utah, Carlson is posting a 7-3-2-1 record in 13-games with a 0.930 save percentage and a 2.43 goals against average. He also has two shutouts to his credit.
Bitzer has a 3-3-0-1 record through his 9 games with a 0.890 SV% and a 3.52 GAA. In reserve, Tyler Parks is 0-2-0-0 through his two games with a 0.870 SV% and a 3.66 GAA.
They haven’t enjoyed this level of success and dependability since Danny Battochio and Tim Boron wore the Rush “R”.
Here are some shots from Wednesday and Saturday night.
Rapid City Rush: The Rush begin their eight-game road trip with a stop in Allen, Texas for a two-game, mid-week series with the Americans. Puck drop for the first game is scheduled for Tuesday, December 4th, at 9:35 a.m. MT at the Allen Events Center.
Utah Grizzlies: The Grizzlies hit the road for a weekend series against the Idaho Steelheads. Puck drop for the first game will be on Friday, December 7th, at 7:00 p.m. MT.