The Rapid City Rush are in a free fall.
It has been 24 days and ten games since the Rush notched two points in the standings. When the streak began, the Rush were in second place in the West Division and tied for sixth in the Western Conference. Now, the boys from the Black Hills are in last in the division and 12th in the conference, 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Normally, one can point to a specific stat or trend for the reason a losing streak is born, but in this instance, there are several. During the streak, the Rush have only scored 14 goals (an average of 1.4 goals per game) and have been shutout twice. Rush players known for their offense; Winston Day Chief, Daniel Barczuk and Mikhail Stefanovich, have combined for six points (5G, 1A) during the streak. The offensive slump has also leaked into the specialty teams. The power play is an anemic 3 for 36 (8.3% efficiency) in their last 10 games.
Head Coach and General Manager Joe Ferras has shaken up the roster quite a bit, trading away players like Kale Kerbashian and Zach Cohen. Now on the roster are Danick Gauthier, Garett Bembridge and Lindsay Sparks; all of whom have had plenty of success creating offense in their prior stops. With this much offense being integrated into the roster, there is not as much time for chemistry to develop as there would perhaps be earlier in the season.
On the back end, the defense has been porous. During the skid, the defense has allowed four or more goals in seven of the ten games. The goaltending tandem of Danny Battochio and Sam Marotta have not been much better, allowing an average of 3.74 goals per game.
Taking penalties is also costing the team. The penalty kill has given up a power play goal in seven of the ten games during the streak. Overall, the PK has killed 31 of 39 opponents power plays, good for a 79.5 percent kill rate. While the PK kill rate looks good, giving up goals on special teams when the offense is not producing is not a winning combination.
Mired in a road-heavy portion of their schedule, the Rush have gone 0-7-0-1 during the skid. In the next ten days, the Rush will play four road games, all against divisional foes. After the upcoming four-in-five on the road, the Rush will play eight of their next ten games on home ice. So far this season, the Rush have a record of 10-10-0-1.
If there is any glimmer of hope for Rush fans, Joe Ferras was at the helm last season when the team went from last place in the conference to playing in the second round of the Kelly Cup playoffs. But, for such a turn around to happen, the team needs to start stringing wins together, now.
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