RAPID CITY, S.D. — The Rush have just completed a three-game stretch against the Fort Wayne Komets after an impressive ten-game performance to start the season.
While the first two games of the series against the visiting Komets were a continuation of their early season success, splitting the first two games and outscoring the visitors 5-to-4, the wheels seemed to fall off the bus for the weekend finale.
The puck seemed to have a mind of its own at times during Saturday night’s “Military Appreciation Night.” Taking a 1-0 lead into the middle frame, a pair of fortuitous bounces and odd-man rushes allowed the visiting Komets to pocket a pair of goals by netminder Adam Carlson a mere 37 seconds apart. They added to that 3-0 advantage early in the final frame when Chris Rygus picked up his first professional goal, sending the puck through traffic and by Carlson. Fort Wayne tallied two more goals to keep the pressure on the Rush, knowing full well this team has rallied late already this season. A pair of late goals from Willem Nong-Lambert and Chris Leibinger kept the Boys from the Black Hills from being shutout but falling 6-2 on home ice is never easy to swallow.
Credit to the Rush as the Komets roster is filled with vets, the young team never gave up even after digging that 6-0 hole. Rapid City had their opportunities but the puck connected with the goal post on too many scoring chances, or the outcome may not have been nearly as one-sided.
“My guys still battled right to the last buzzer and scored two goals. That’s the kind of character I have on this team, and it’s a long year. We didn’t get the bounces, especially early in the second,” expressed Rush head coach Daniel Tetrault.
So while the outcome wasn’t what any team or fanbase wants, it still shows the organization is moving in the right direction. So just how far has this team come? We’ll find out by the time we flip the calendar to December.
Rapid City hits the road for a tough six-game series against the Idaho Steelheads (three away, three home) starting tonight at CenturyLink Arena.
Idaho has secured one win over its last six games and is 2-2-1-0 over their five home games this season.
Rapid City counters with a 3-2-0-0 road record, including the series sweep at Tulsa to start the month of November (all wins were in extra hockey).
An added weapon to the Rush roster is the recent acquisition of Brandon Mashinter, former NHLer and most recently played with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda last season.
A good majority of his 10 years of professional hockey have been spent at the AHL level where he put up impressive numbers including 126 goals, 135 assists, 261 points, and 645 PIM in 535 games.
During that stretch, he also spent time at the NHL level with the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, and New York Rangers.
“I’m really excited, when you get a player of that nature it’s exciting news,” Tetrault said. “He has a lot of AHL and NHL experience, he adds leadership on and off the ice. He’s big kid with a lot of size, but he adds offense too.”
Rapid City gets this addition at just the right time as they will take on the Utah Grizzlies at home for a three-game set after they complete their stretch against Idaho. Utah already dealt the Rush a major blow to their ego to start the season, outscoring them 10-4 during a two-game series to start the season.
In a long season, nine games may not seem like a lot but in reality, they will go a long way to defining how they stand in their own division and what kind of momentum they take into the final month of the 2018 calendar year.
Netting at least 12-out-of-18 points in that stretch could easily put them back on pace with the Kansas City Mavericks, who currently lead the division and have four games-in-hand over the Rush.
“This is the most important stretch of the season,” Tetrault said. “Every game is a four-point game and we have to start climbing up the standings and keep playing well.”
Puck drop for the first game of the series with the Steelheads is set for tonight at 7:10 pm MT.