RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Rapid City Rush are pulling out all the stops for the tenth anniversary season this fall. The off-season is still underway as the month of July draws nears, but the last several weeks have had some inspired announcements about the direction this team is heading.
The off-season kicked off with a bang in April when it was announced that Mark DeSantis would no longer be the bench boss heading into “Year 10.” His record of 38-47-11 over 96 games definitely didn’t sit well with a fickle fan base looking for this team to get back to the post season.
Rapid City Rush owner Luke Peterson said in a statement: “Today was a very hard decision both personally and for the Rush organization. We would like to wish Mark Desantis the very best in his future.”
Then the upswings started and the new direction of this team slowly came to light.
On April 27, the Rush announced a 10-year lease renewal with the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. This announcement helped quiet the rumors swirling around a possible franchise move in the coming years if the team continued to have poor ticket sales and a lackluster record in the standings.
Then assistant coach Daniel Tetrault is optimistic on what the future holds for the Rush in Rapid City. He added, “It’s a big announcement, it’s exciting. To be here ten years and then to renew the contract with the Civic Center for another ten years it’s huge for the city, it’s huge for the fans, and especially for the minor hockey kids too.”
The former Rush Captain would have even more news to be excited about as he was named as the franchise’s third head coach on June 9.
“We were presented with many interested candidates for this position, and after careful consideration, we as an ownership group decided to choose Daniel Tetrault to lead us into our 10th anniversary season as the next Head Coach of the Rapid City Rush,” stated Rush Majority Owner Scott Mueller .
The energy Tetrault conveyed during that press conference was felt by all in attendance and the overall feeling from fans in attendance was that of a great sense of excitement for the new season.
The month of June continued with the news of a new NHL/AHL affiliation, one that should benefit the Rush a lot more than their previous affiliation.
“ We are thrilled to announce that the Rush has entered into an agreement to serve as the exclusive ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and AHL’s Iowa Wild,” said Rush General Manager, Joe Ferras.
It is true that the fan base for the Minnesota Wild is strong in the Black Hills and the demand for jerseys with the Wild logo on them have picked up immensely. Coupled with that, there is a greater possibility of local players getting called up to markets that are broadcast in Western South Dakota. Here’s to hoping this new affiliation brings a better level of talent both up and downstream for the coming season.
Then, the player signings began.
On June 20, the Rush were able to ink a pair of rookies from last season. Defensemen Geoff Fortman and Vinny Muto both signed on for the 2017-18 season after beginning their respective professional careers in the Black Hills last season.
Fortman had an immediate impact in the nine games he played with the Rush last season, registering four goals and four assists, respectively, while Muto was able to tally a pair of assists in the twelve games he played in a Rush jersey.
Rapid City was also able to secure veteran forward Kenton Miller from the Elmira Jackals, where he amassed 30 goals and 15 assists in 63 games he played with the New York club.
Heading into July, the Rush were able to successfully tender qualifying offers to eight players.
Forwards: Ryan Walters, Lindsay Sparks, Kyle Dutra
Defensemen: Alex Mikulovich, Kevin Gibson, Nick Walters
Goalies: Adam Morrison, Luke Siemens
The players listed above have until July 31 at 11:59 pm ET to decide whether to take the club’s offer or become restricted free agents. This is a powerful group of players and will definitely add to a solid base to sign other talented players going forward.
Which brings us to the latest signings in the month of July. And they are big ones.
Logan Nelson officially inked his return to the Black Hills on July 13, and is looking to build on the success he had in the Black Hills in 2017. After his trade to the Rush after the New Year, he tallied 10 goals and 15 assists in 31 games.
“The feeling of coming back to such a great community is exciting to me. I’ve had the privilege of playing with Coach Tetrault and also having him as an assistant coach, so I know his passion for the game is endless. I know he’s going to do everything in his power to bring a team full of good guys and winners together,” said Nelson on coming back to Rapid City.
Not to be outdone, Tetrault rounded out his coaching staff with the addition of a former defensive partner in Nello Ferrara. He will serve as the team’s assistant coach for the upcoming season. Ferrara played ten seasons of professional hockey across six different leagues including the ECHL, CHL, and IHL. The two played together on the Port Huron Icehawks of the IHL.
“It feels absolutely great to have this announcement today. I’m very optimistic and confident that our plan to rebuild a dominant force in minor league hockey will be extremely successful,” said Ferrara on joining the Rush organization.
On Thursday, the Rush announced the return of forward Anthony Collins, who is coming off a career year in the Black Hills, including playing in his 200th professional game on January 7 against the Utah Grizzlies.
“He’s a team-first player and will do anything for his teammates,” Tetrault said of re-signing Collins. “Anthony is one of the toughest players in the league, and can also produce offensively when given the opportunity.”
The player signing may have been overshadowed by a double-edged sword.
News broke yesterday of General Manager Joe Ferras leaving the organization for a scouting job with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
Ferras has been with the organization from the beginning serving as the original head coach and leading the team to the CHL’s Presidents’ Cup Championship in 2010 before also taking over as the team’s GM.
We’ll definitely be keeping our eyes and ears peeled for who takes over this position but having fresh blood may not be such a bad idea when it comes to keeping this team relevant within the community and inspiring new ideas to draw in greater crowds each night.
While there is still a lot of off-season left before the first puck drops in October you can’t deny the change in the air in the Black Hills. The Rush are looking to make some noise in their tenth season.
Go Big or Go Home.