RAPID CITY, SD — Jimmy Bonneau and Sean Erickson got on the scoresheet in the final games of their careers, but the Utah Grizzlies ended the Rapid City Rush season with a 5-3 win over their West Division rivals on Saturday night.
The first period featured high-flying offense, with both teams answering each other with tallies not even seconds apart. Scoring first for a second straight night was the Rush thanks to Jonathan Narbonne, who slapped a puck towards the Utah net and Mark Owuya and benefitted from a bounce over the goaltender and in the net. The goal gave the Rush a 1-0 lead with 1:51 played in the game, Destry Straight and Jimmy Bonneau earned the assists.
Twenty-two seconds later, Utah tied the game, but with controversy in tow. After Max Nicastro had his stick slashed out of his hand in the Utah zone, the Grizzlies went on a four-on-one rush through neutral ice. It ended with Bryan Moore finding Erik Higby on the back door, tapping the puck by Rush net-minder Danny Battochio to tie the game at 1-1 with 2:13 played in the period.
Ryan Walters pushed his new club up to a 2-1 lead by sticking the dagger to his former club, ripping a short-side wrist shot by Owuya under the blocker with 5:44 left in the first, Spencer Pommells registered the lone assist. Utah responded 1:22 later when Erik Higby found Bryan Moore to even things up at 2-2 heading into the second after both gentlemen broke up the ice on a two on one.
Within the first 90 seconds of the second, Utah found itself on the first power play of the game and cashed in to take their first lead of the game. With 1:27 played in the middle frame, Alex Krushelnyski unloaded a blast that was deflected in by Jon Puskar to give the Grizzlies a 3-2 lead. Krushelnyski and Mike Ratchuk earned the helpers.
At the 6:00 mark, however, the Rush continued the “call and response” game that was being played. After the Rush, for odd reasons, had a goal waved off, Sean Erickson fired a shot on net from the far wall and Mikhail Stefanovich potted the rebound, squaring the game up at 3-3. Erickson and Destry Straight notched the assists, with Straight getting his second of the night.
Utah returned the favor and earned their final lead of the night, when Barry Almeida sent a loose puck out of a scramble up high on Battochio to push the Grizzlies up 4-3 with 2:36 left in the second. Ryan Hayes and T.J Syner hooked up for the helpers.
In the third period, following a 49 second five-on-three power play for the Rush that was not converted on, Almeida ended the scoring entries with an empty-netter to seal the game at 5-3, once again receiving assists from Hayes and Syner.
Danny Battochio suffered the loss despite stopping 36 of 40 Utah shots faced (20-20-4).