RAPID CITY, S.D. — In a “Battle of Cellar Dwellers” the Quad City Mallards traveled to the Black Hills of South Dakota for their final series ever against the Rapid City Rush. The first game of the weekend clash took place on Friday night, when the Rush honored the franchise record setting career of Danny “The Batman” Battochio and raised his #30 into the rafters.
As a special tribute to Battochio the, Rush signed him to a one-day contract as their backup goalie which allowed him to suit up for the contest shortly after his jersey was retired.
The emotional high the home team and crowd were on would quickly come to a halt less than five minutes into the game. Jake Bolton came off the blue line to pick up a turnover and rifled the puck unassisted over the shoulder of Rush netminder Christian Frey for the early 1-0 lead with with 15:30 left in the opening period. Quad City doubled up on that lead at the 8:18 mark when Travis Armstrong took a close-range shot on net that was initially stopped by Frey, but Armstrong secured his own rebound and the score to further distance the visiting Mallards from the home team.
Rapid City finally settled in and stepped up its protection of the net as the period began to wind down, but the Rush had their work cut out for them after digging an early 2-0 hole.
The home team’s tempo continued into the middle frame and they were finally able to cash in at the 7:33 mark. Pavel Jenys picked up a timely turnover and ripped the puck by the glove of Mallards netminder C.J. Motte to cut the deficit in have at 2-1. This was Jenys’ 17th tally on the season.
Moments later there was stoppage in play while a panel of broken glass near the Rush bench was tended to. Whatever was discussed at the Rush bench during that nearly 13 minute break must have worked because a mere 13 seconds later Rapid City squared the contest back up at 2-2 when Alec Baer pocketed his second professional goal.
Both teams traded off scoring opportunities the remainder of the period, but it was not until the 14:14 mark that Quad City would regain the lead with Alexander Kuqali finding himself uncontested for the easy backhand slider.
Rapid City refused to go quietly into the night, however, as Andrew Radjenovic squared the game back up at 3-3 with 2:52 remaining in the game. The Rush held a slim lead in shots on goal through two periods of action, 26 to 24, and neither team could capitalize on their lone man advantage scoring opportunities to this point.
While the opportunities were there in the final frame, neither team could solve the opposing netminder which in turn forced the free overtime period. The home fans were hoping to see The Batman jump in for a few minutes during the 3rd period for that extra bit of nostalgia, but the game unfortunately did not allow for this.
Deadlocked at three aside, both teams would face off in a 3-on-3 sudden death overtime period. The Rush have seen their fair share of defeats when the game cannot be decided in regulation but the team would not allow that to happen to put any kind of negative vibes on such a festive evening. Just 63 seconds into OT, Daniel Leavens picked up his own rebound attempt and sealed the 4-3 win in overtime over the visiting Mallards.
Shots on goal were virtually deadlocked with the Mallards holding a slim 37 to 36 edge, and neither team could cash in while on the man advantage tonight.
Frey was credited with the win stopping 34 of 37 shots on the night while Motte took the loss, stopping 32 of 36 shots he faced.
Neither team will be making any post-season plans as both have been eliminated for some time and are just looking to play spoiler for other teams whenever possible.
Batman’s Jersey Retired
In an pregame ceremony to honor not only the professional accomplishments but also the character of a noteworthy individual, the Rapid City Rush hoisted Danny Battochio‘s #30 into the rafters to join former Rush captain Scott Wray’s #17.
These two teams will square off for the final time ever Saturday, March 31st. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 pm MT from the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena.