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Thursday, April 3rd

“On the ‘Mark’” returns just in time for the start of the playoffs, analyzing the thoughts in the head of Mark Binetti, the “Voice of the Rush”. In today’s installment, Mark recaps a great regular season as a rookie, his brother’s visit to the Black Hills, calling pro hockey in Canada, and his thoughts on the team’s impending playoff run:

1) Hope all is well in the Black Hills Rush fans! Sorry for the long time between installments, but that’s what happens when a season picks up its intensity down the stretch, and you’re drowned in work. The regular season ended on Sunday with an unfortunate loss to the Brampton Beast, the third straight for the Rush. Despite the three losses, the Rush played admirably, and can take a lot of positives into the opening round of the playoffs, especially in goal with the tandem of Wayne Savage and Tim Boron.

2) The goaltenders for the Rush are out-of-this-world. Let’s start with Savage, who continues to baffle me. He baffles me in the sense that he makes lugging a 6’2” 227lb refrigerator-like frame so effortless in the crease. He is lightning quick for a big body, has an unbelievably fast glove hand, and has elevated his play since day one with this organization. If Coach Ferras needs to call on him in the playoffs, you can expect him to rise to the challenge and help this team along the way to securing its second CHL championship.

3) Now onto Mr. Boron. He is a warrior, no ifs, ands, or buts. In his only appearance in Brampton last weekend, he started to massively cramp up with about five minutes left in regulation in a 2-2 game. Despite the intense pain, Boron soldiered on and made some spectacular highlight reel-worthy plays, forcing overtime and eventually in a shootout. Common sense would dictate that a goaltender with that much cramping and in that much visual discomfort would get shelled in a shooutout with a lone attacker coming towards the net, but Tim proved common sense wrong and lasted THIRTEEN ROUNDS, eight past the normally allotted five. This was the second time the Rush lost 1-0 in a shootout that required extra rounds, but they were able to hang around as long as they did both times because of their Goaltender of the Year finalist in net. I’d say that’s a goaltender ready to lead his team into what I believe will be a deep playoff run.

4) When I look back on the regular season, I once again think of how truly blessed I am to be working with this hockey team. As a broadcaster, milestones don’t come your way very often, and this season proved that wrong to an extreme degree. Just six games into the season (and my pro career for that matter), I watched Scott Wray become the first man in Rush history to score 100 goals, and the fifth man to score 300 in a CHL career on the exact same play. I also saw Scott play in not only 300 games for the Rush, but ultimately 312 STRAIGHT games with the Rush, and 376 overall consecutive games dating back to his season with the Rocky Mountain Rage before he came to the Black Hills. I saw Tim Boron notch his first 30-win season in his career, saw him win his 100th CHL game, and his 75th game with the Rush. On top of those two Rush veterans, I was on hand when Justin Faryna, Scott Brannon, and Jared Brown all played in their 100th games with the Rush, and while we’re on career game milestones, I called Coach Ferras’ 700th regular season game coached in the CHL, just the fourth person to accomplish the feat. I saw the team match the consecutive win record to start a season (10-0), set the consecutive road victory mark to start a season (12-0), and become the fastest team to 20 wins in league history (20-3), the last two in the same night. I’m just throwing it out there, but I’d say this is a season to remember for sure.

5) On top of the milestones for the franchise and for the players, it has been great to be able to interact with such high quality people on this team. The players are truly high-character individuals, and I have forged friendships with them that I know will last for a long time. I can’t wait to see what this chapter of the season holds for this organization, and I can’t wait to experience it with the players and staff every step of the way.

6) Another part of this magical season for me has been my peers in the business, and meeting the other “Voices” of the league. I want to thank them for their professionalism, and for welcoming me into the league the way they did. A few weeks ago in the CHL’s “Best of the Best” Poll, they named me the #3 Best Broadcaster in the League. I was extremely shocked and floored to see I made the list, and I want to thank all of my peers for their support. I know there is still much I can learn and much improvement to be done, but I never saw it coming at all and appreciate their encouragement and am grateful that they voted for me. I also want to congratulate those that were recognized ahead of me in that poll: #2 Rob Loeber from Tulsa, and #1 Tommy Daniels from Allen. Both of those gentlemen are absolute class acts and as professional as they come in the business. Rob has been great to work with, and Tommy has been a great person to bounce ideas off of and ask for critiques of my tapes. I wish them the best as they call their respective teams in the playoffs.

7) If you saw a gentleman much taller and bigger than I walking around everywhere with me roughly two weeks ago, that would’ve been my younger brother Michael. Michael visited South Dakota for the first time ever, and loved traveling around Rapid City. Obviously, his favorite part was coming to Rush games. I want to thank all of you, Rush fans, for showing my younger brother how the best fans in the CHL do business on game day. He was so excited to experience the atmosphere of a Rush game, and I owe that to you and how crazy, excited, classy, and amped up you carry yourselves at Rush games. And to the front office staff and the players, thanks so much for making him feel like a part of the Rush family. It is a week and a half visit he will remember for a long time.

8) While my brother visited, I went out to Mount Rushmore for the first time ever since moving here, and I was taken aback by how beautiful a sight Mount Rushmore is. It is so majestic, and crazy to think that a man could carve a mountain like that, but it is truly a majestic and patriotic sight sitting in our state and community. My brother, who has a degree in History from East Carolina University, truly enjoyed the experience as well, and made sure to fill half of his luggage with souvenirs.

9) Opening Day for baseball is upon us, the time where my New York Yankees begin their road to their 28th World Series championship, still the most championships in any professional sport. I know, I know, they’re 0-2 right now, having lost both of their games to last year’s worst team in baseball in the Houston Astros, but sometimes champions need to falter to reach success. Just relax, they’ve totally GOT this. I mean, let’s be real folks, Derek Jeter needs to retire on top. He is my favorite baseball player of all time and, as such, deserves to win a sixth World Series ring.

10) While we’re on the topic of outside sports, the Rush NCAA bracket challenge is going better than I expected, with lots of participation and hype amongst Rush fans fighting for one of three prizes. I was doing so well too, setting the bar high in our challenge group…until my pick for the national champion, the Michigan State Spartans, decided to lose to the UConn Huskies…oh well. It should be an exciting finish to see who ultimately wins and decides what prize they’d like to take home with them for the Rush playoff run.

11) The most recent trip to Canada was my first time ever venturing into “the Great White North”. I must say I was extremely impressed with the visit and would love to go back. The money is just as crazy as advertised (it’s plastic, see through on one side, and impossible to tear with your bare hands), and Tim Horton’s is unbelievably awesome. If you ever go to one, make sure you get the Maple Glazed and Maple Dipped doughnuts…they’re phenomenal. Being able to call a pro hockey game in Canada was a surreal experience, and one I will always cherish in my career.

12) The hype for hockey in Canada is remarkable. I dream of a day when sports fans in the US will share that same hype, and focus on what I consider to be the best team sport, and the best sport ever created.

13) On our final free day of the trip, I went to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto with Kyle Stroh and Sean Erickson and got to soak in the history of my favorite team, my favorite player, and of course, my favorite sport. Seeing Brian Leetch’s exhibit and hanging out with the Stanley Cup were definitely some of the main highlight’s for sure.

14) Another bright spot in the experience was going to the broadcasting exhibit and re-enacting Sam Rosen’s call of the 1994 Stanley Cup Championship with Sean Erickson, when the Rangers broke the curse of 1940 and defeated the Vancouver Canucks in Madison Square Garden in a winner-take-all Game Seven for the cup. If you don’t know the legendary call of the 30-year broadcaster of the New York Rangers, and my broadcasting hero then watch this clip and familiarize yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Wzq2AhbXSeY#t=16. I still remember watching that game with my dad when I was 6 years old and hearing Sam Rosen’s immortal call: “And this one will last a lifetime!” I can only hope that I can attain that level of success and respect in my career that Sam Rosen has. He is truly an inspiration in the business. If you want to see a highlight reel of that decisive Game Seven then watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qT43WmSTF4c

15) This opening round series with the Mallards is going to be one of the most competitive and entertaining series of the opening round of the playoffs. Both teams are as even as they come for a #4/#5 matchup, with and even 3-2-1 record against eachother in their six game regular season set, stellar goaltending, shut-down penalty kill units, and shifty forwards with high hockey IQ’s. I personally predict that the Rush will win in 6, but if this team clicks the way we have seen them click this year, don’t be surprised to see them take the series sooner.

16) Another early playoff matchup to look out for is the #1/#8 showdown between the Missouri Mavericks and the Arizona Sundogs. When that Arizona team is healthy, they’re dangerous, and while Missouri is a very deep and talented squad, don’t be surprised to see the Sundogs force a long series. Whether Missouri wins as the #1 seed or not, I predict that set to go the distance to seven games.

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