RAPID CITY, S.D. — Entering their final meeting of the season Saturday night, the Rapid City Rush looked to snap Wichita’s eight-game winning streak over them…a streak which spanned 15 months. Each team appeared to have the luck of the Irish on its side at different points, but one team found itself just a bit luckier in extra time.
The opening period again was a netminder showcase as each team held strong between the pipes. Ian Brady broke the deadlock while on the man advantage for Nolan Descoteaux‘s tripping minor at 16:58. With the power play winding down Brady took the feed from Jack Walker and blasted the puck by Thunder netminder Nick Riopel for the 1-0 advantage.
On the next possession the Thunder recorded the second-fastest scoring exchange of the season between the Rush and their opposition. Just 15 seconds later Kevin Dufour was able to get a close range shot on net that Rush netminder Adam Vay stopped initially, but Dufour collected his own rebound and got the puck by Vay to square the game up 1-1 with 54 seconds left in the opening frame.
The deadlock remained through the bulk of the middle frame. A pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were handed out late in the period to set up 4-on-4 hockey. With less than a minute remaining, Brayden Sherbinin drove the puck over Riopel’s shoulder to put the Rush back on top 2-1 heading into the final frame of regulation and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
The Rush took command of the game shortly after the puck dropped for the third period. With just 1:51 gone by Andrew Radjenovic took the feed from Walker and beat his defender in the attacking zone. He then sent the puck past Riopel for the 3-1 advantage for the Boys from the Black Hills.
Rapid City looked to let its foot off the gas after getting the two-goal lead, and the visiting Thunder took full advantage, scoring a pair of goals fewer than two minutes apart. The first came from Ralph Cuddemi at 4:59 who knocked in a rebound attempt to cut the deficit to one.
Vay was then charged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following the goal, which put the Thunder on the man advantage. Wichita made quick work of that gift and recorded the tying goal at 6:40 when Brayden Low scored from close range to tie the game up at three aside.
Rapid City picked its intensity back up as neither team could gain the advantage before the final horn forcing extra time.
As the clock wound down in 3-on-3 hockey it looks as though the game would head to a shootout. However, Peter Sivak wanted none of that, as he was able to get by his defender and get a solo attempt on Riopel, winning the game with 1:08 left in overtime.
Vay is credited with the win stopping 25 of 28 shots on the night while Riopel took the loss stopping 21 of 25 shots.
The Thunder went 1-for-4 on the man advantage while the Rush went 1-for-3 on their power play opportunities.
The Thunder still hold on to their third Itplace standing in the Mountain Division and a five point lead over the Allen Americans. The Americans do have two games in hand over the Thunder, though.
As always, we attended the game as spectators for our photographer Sarah Crook’s birthday. As an added bonus we were able to get her to drop the puck before the game. Thank you to Jay Davis for helping to make that happen, the pics from Trisha Cuka and Mike Wolforth, and the video from Joe Luciano.
Rapid City Rush: The Rush travel to Idaho for a three-game series against the Steelheads next week. The first game in the series kicks off Wednesday, March 21st.
Wichita Thunder: The Thunder will travel to Kansas City for a mid-week match against the Mavericks on Tuesday, March 20th.