RAPID CITY, S.D. — Heading into this weekend’s series with the Allen Americans the Rapid City Rush were in a familiar position.
Residing in the cellar of their division.
But the tide appeared to be changing after the road series with the Kansas City Mavericks that saw the Rush split the set and garner their first win of the season.
Allen has been having similar struggles to start their season as they came into this weekend with a 1-3-0-1 record and just three points in the standings.
Friday night’s contest gave the Rush Nation cause for concern as their Boys from the Black Hills found themselves staring at a 2-0 deficit heading into the final twenty minutes of regulation.
Something sparked the team as they came out with a renewed confidence and continued to fight. A pair of goals propelled the team to free hockey only to see that effort come up short falling in the final round of the shootout.
However, Rush head coach Daniel Tetrault was pleased with his team’s effort and energy.
“There’s some good shooters. These guys are goal scorers. It’s an entertaining game, a lot of back and forth.”
Would that effort translate into a win Saturday night or did the Rush use up all their juice for that two-goal rally?
If you were looking at the stat sheet after the first period of play, it would seem it would be the latter.
Allen jumped out to a sizeable 3-0 lead during the first 8:33 of regulation, including a powerplay goal by David Marakowski, and everything seemed to be humming for the visitors while the Rush seemed to be regressing to their old form, prompting coach Tetrault to pull Rush netminder Michael Bitzer in favor of Adam Carlson.
The Americans added insult to injury with another pair of powerplay goals to start the middle frame, both goals off rebound stops by Carlson to put the visitors up 5-0 and all the lucky bounces going their way.
Most young players would have thrown the towel in at this point and just gone through the motions for the remainder of the game.
The fight in this Rush team, however, has no apparent limit.
The home team, doing the improbable, would mount an impressive rally for the second night in a row and force another night of free hockey for those in attendance.
Sadly, though, the Americans would secure the second point off a lucky tip by Joel Chouinard to sneak the puck by Carlson less than two minutes into overtime for the 6-5 win.
While neither game ended the way anyone in the Black Hills was hoping for the point to remember is that this is a team that has found a way to self-destruct in seasons past yet the last two nights they continued to fight and claw their way back into the game. If they can get those same scoring chances earlier in the game, then this season could be a bright one for Rapid City.
Tetrault is noticeably impressed with the “never say die” attitude his team has displayed in this series.
“What can I say? We have a no-quit team, and that’s a good sign. There’s a bunch of good kids in there.”
Some food for thought about Saturday’s game: Allen only scored two even-strength goals in regulation compared to Rapid City’s five. So the Rush at least won the even-strength match-up on the night.
Fast forward to Sunday, and the netminders were the star of the show through the first 40 minutes of regulation as they shut down every opportunity the opposition fired at them. But the fight in the Rush propelled them to get a clean two-points in the final game of this weekend series. Rush D-man Josh Elmes (powerplay) and forward Darby Llewellyn each scored their first goals of the season to lift the home team to their second home win and first shutout of the season.
The team came together to shut down numerous scoring attempts from Allen and did a much better job of making sure Carlson was not on an island. Couple that with increasing their offensive pressure on Jeremy Brodeur and it was the perfect recipe for success that secured four-of-six points this weekend.
Will the improved attitude can follow the team on the road as they travel to Tulsa for a three-game stretch against the Oilers? Puck drop for the first game in the series is set for Thursday at 6:05 pm MT.