BOISE, Idaho – On the back of a big transaction that brought defenseman Colton Saucerman to Idaho on Tuesday (plus d-man Ondrej Vala returning from the AHL’s Texas Stars), the Steelheads were looking forward to having a full defensive unit (and continued offensive onslaught) as the Rapid City Rush came to CenturyLink Arena for the beginning of a three-game set and six games between the teams over the course of two weeks.
Unfortunately, what they didn’t get was the win.
In a game that saw two sets of fighting majors and 13 infractions between both clubs, the rough and tumble Rush defeated the Steelheads 3-2 in a shootout victory. This came a day after Idaho traded forwards Joe Pendenza and Jack Nevins to the Manchester Monarchs in exchange for the aforementioned Saucerman. The man known as “Sauce” put four shots on goal with a minus-two rating in his Steelheads debut, pairing with Eric Sweetman on defense for the majority of the game.
“I thought our guys played very hard,” Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham stated. “They played well, getting out to a 2-0 lead. We dictated the pace of play, for the most part. I liked the response from what happened last Saturday (against Tulsa); we came out ready to go, and guys were on their toes. The disappointment for me is that we didn’t find a way to see it through.”
In what was another strong offensive showing for Idaho, the Steelheads threw 43 shots on goal towards Rush netminder Adam Carlson, potting two goals in the first period. Idaho’s first goal came when forward Justin Parizek was double-teamed along the left wing boards in the Rapid City zone. Parizek then found a wide-open Spencer Naas on the doorstep to the left of Carlson, who proceeded to rip a point-blank shot into the back of the net for his sixth goal of the season. In a similar scenario later that period, forward Brad McClure was skating down the left wing side when a pass to the high slot found fellow forward Kyle Schempp. Schempp fired his left-handed wrister past Carlson’s blocker side, giving the Steelheads a 2-0 lead at 19:52 of the opening frame.
The Rush’s most recent acquisition, NHL and AHL veteran Brandon Mashinter, ended the first period of play by tracking down Idaho defenseman Nolan Gluchowski behind the Steelheads net, checking him into the boards well after the period horn had sounded. The play was a microcosm of the aggression presented this evening. Fights between Idaho’s Kale Kessy versus Rapid City’s Shaquille Merasty and Steelheads’ Keegan Kanzig against the Rush’s Michael Turner were the hallmarks of physicality in the first and third periods. Kessy also received a roughing minor against Rapid City defenseman Chris Leibinger after he received a boarding minor for a hit on forward Reid Petryk at 10:27 of the third period.
The Rush did manage to keep their gloves on long enough to put two goals by Idaho goaltender Colton Point. The first tally came from a two-on-one chance, where Colton Saucerman was unable to stop a cross-ice setup from Rapid City forward Pierre-Luc Mercier to teammate Mason McCarty for the score at 6:46 of the second period. The Rush then added a shorthanded goal after the Leibinger boarding minor, with a botched passing exchange between Saucerman and Steve McParland in Idaho’s zone resulting in a Mercier slapshot past Point at 11:36 of the third period. After a 2-2 tie beyond regulation and overtime, Rapid City scored two shootout goals from McCarty and Willem Nong-Lambert as Idaho yielded none, earning the Rush a win and two points on the night.
Rapid City and Idaho will play their second and third games at CenturyLink Arena on Friday and Saturday night, with the puck drop scheduled at 7:10 pm MT both evenings.