Where We Left Off: Texas Hold ‘Em – Last weekend, fresh off their New Year’s Eve win against the St. Charles Chill, the Rush traveled to Texas to take on the defending CHL champion Allen Americans. The last series between these two foes produced two down-to-the-wire one goal games, and this series provided the same result. The Rush lost the first game of the series by a 2-1 score, as the Americans were powered by two power play goals, handing the Rush their first road loss of the season, ending their CHL-record road game winning streak at 12 games. The next night, the Rush looked to avoid the sweep in the Allen Event Center and also avoid consecutive losses for the second time this season. The Rush would get on the board first in the rematch, as Winston Day Chief scored his fourteenth of the season to give the Rush a 1-0 lead, but the Americans would come roaring back. The defending champs would score three unanswered goals, scored by Alex Lavoie, Phil Fox, and then Tyler Ludwig on a power play to take a commanding 3-1 lead into the first intermission. The Rush, however, having been in this position before, showed their resiliency and evened the playing field in the second. Jesse Schultz would slam in a rebound to cut into the deficit, and the Winston Day Chief would earn his second tally of the night, rifling home a pass from Schultz to tie the game up at 3 going into the third. Keaton Hartigan played in between the pipes in relief, coming in at the start of the second period, and was stalwart in net. Unfortunately, the Americans would get past his goal line once in the final period with 7:21 left in the game, as Kale Kerbashian would squeak a rebound in behind the rookie goaltender, giving the Americans the 4-3 lead. Despite having a power play with two and a half minutes left in regulation, coupled with an extra attacker, the Rush would fall to the Americans for the second consecutive night. It would be the first time this season the Rush would be swept in a two-game set.
A Game in the Hand is Worth… – The Rush, Oilers, Beast, and Chill are the only teams in action tonight in the CHL. That means that the Rush can pick up a crucial two points tonight, as they have games in hand on the Missouri Mavericks, the Allen Americans, and the Denver Cutthroats: the three teams currently gunning for the Rush’s number one spot at the top of the CHL standings. This is especially important as far as the Mavericks are concerned, as the Rush and Mavericks square off in a much anticipated two-game set this weekend.
Best of the Best…and the Worst – Coming into tonight, the Rush boast the best defense in the CHL, a position they have held for the majority of this young season, having only allowed 70 goals through 29 games played, an average of 2.41 goals against per game. The Oilers counter that with the best offense in the CHL, having scored 117 goals through 35 games played for an average of 3.34 goals per game. However, conversely the Oilers also have the worst ranked defense in the CHL. In their 35 games played, the visitors from Oklahoma have allowed 128 goals, an average of 3.65 goals against per game.
Cutting it Close – Since coming back from the Christmas holiday, the Rush have played in six games, four of which have been decided by one goal. The Rush are no stranger to one goal games, as 16 of their 29 games played have been decided by a goal (the Rush are 11-5 in those games, most recently losing 4-3 @ Allen).
You’re Killing Me Smalls – The Rush penalty kill has been one of the weaker points for the Rush as of recently. They have given up a power play goal in each of their last eight games, but had a solid showing against the Americans on Saturday night, going 4/5 (80%) on the evening. The Rush PK unit is ranked tenth out of the ten team league, clocking in at 76.2%. The league’s average penalty kill is 82.3%.
NUMBER CRUNCH: VS the Oilers – Both of these teams meet for the first time, so let’s look into some numbers that have brought them to this point:
· 733 – the number of penalty minutes assessed to the Oilers this season. The Oilers are the second most penalized team in the league, only behind Brampton (755 PIM). The Rush are the least penalized team in the CHL, having only been assessed 459 PIM.
· 6 – the number of games in hand the Rush have over the Oilers. While the Oilers sit in the middle of the CHL after a very slow start, they have played the most games out of any team in the CHL. The Rush, on the other hand, have played the second fewest games of any team, with tonight being their 30th.
· 4 – the number of games that the Oilers have lost by 4 or more goals. To counter that, the Oilers have won 5 games by 4 or more goals, but this is definitely a “feast or famine” team by the numbers. The Oilers scored 10 goals in a game against the Americans in the same week that they lost to the Quad City Mallards by a 9-3 score. The worst loss for the Rush in this season is 2, a feat achieved twice this year.
We’re Going Streaking! – Only one Rapid City Rush player is carrying a statistical streak going into tonight’s matchup against the Oilers:
· Jesse Schultz – assists and points in his last nine games (2 G, 12 A, 14 Pts)
o Schultz has set a new team season high for an assist streak at nine games. He is one off of the league high for an assist streak at 10 games, set earlier by Denver’s Troy Schwab.