RAPID CITY, S.D. — It seems like a lifetime ago that the Rush were flirting with the top spot in the division. A killer slump to close out 2018 that bled into 2019, sent the once hopeful boys from the Black Hills into a downward spiral that nearly had them tied with the Allen Americans in the Mountain Division cellar.
Flip the page to the middle of January where the Rush faced off against the top-tiered Florida Everblades and came away with two points in that three-game series despite being outscored 11-4. The momentum from that series spilled into their annual Stock Show road trip resulting in taking six points and a 2-2-2-0 record against five different teams.
Climbing the Ladder
Not wanting to rest on their laurels, the Rush continued their climb in the Mountain Division as they took on the Wichita Thunder for a pair of games last weekend.
On Friday night, both teams were held off the stat sheet for the first 25 minutes-plus of the contest as Tyler Parks and Ty Rimmer stopped a combined 19 shots. Rapid City secured a pair of goals in the middle frame, both coming off the stick of Cedric Montminy.
Wichita didn’t go quietly into the night as special teams cut the deficit in half with 90-seconds remaining of a powerplay goal from Taylor Cammarata. The visitors would get no closer as Parks secured the win stopping a penalty shot with just two seconds left in the contest and 19-of-20 shots on the night for the Rush.
Saturday’s rematch started with an offensive explosion in the opening frame seeing the home team take a commanding 4-1 advantage into the first intermission.
Both teams traded off goals in the first half of the period with Chris Leibinger scoring for the Rush at 3:55 and Pierre-Cedric Labrie countering at 6:30 for the visitors. Rapid City was able to rattle off three straight goals in just over nine minutes, including a powerplay goal from Justin Faryna, to build a three-goal advantage.
Special teams contributed to both goals in the middle frame as the Rush took a 5-1 lead off a powerplay goal by Tyler Poulsen only to see the Thunder counter with a short-handed goal from Lane Bauer.
Things looked promising for an easy sweep for Rapid City as they started the final 20 minutes with a 5-to-2 advantage. Wichita wasn’t about to go down without swinging, however, Jeremy Beaudry and Stefan Fournier each pocketed a powerplay goal just 1:15 apart to pull the visiting Thunder within a single goal with 13 minutes left in regulation. From there, the Rush defense tightened up and secured two empty net power-play goals, sweeping the Thunder by the final score of 7-4.
Adam Carlson secured the win for the Rush, stopping 28-of-32 shots on the night that put the Rush squarely in fifth place in the division.
Twenty-One and Counting
The Rush currently sit in fifth place in the Mountain Division. While they are only four points out of the final playoff spot the team they are trailing, the Kansas City Mavericks, the Mavs also have six games in hand on Rapid City.
Every series the Rush will play for the rest of the season should be considered a “mini-playoff series” if they want to keep their postseason hopes alive. Of the remaining 21 games on the schedule, 18 are against division opponents. Of those 18 games, the Rush will face the Grizzlies and Steelheads a combined 14 times. So there is very little room for error.
The Rush travel to Idaho for a three-game series. Puck drop for the first game is Wednesday night at 7:10 pm MT from CenturyLink Arena.