(RAPID CITY, SD) – In the 2008-2009 season, Joe Ferras entered into a new chapter in his coaching career with the CHL’s newest expansion team: the Rapid City Rush. Seven years, a CHL Coach of the Year award, two conference titles, and a CHL Championship later, Coach Ferras will coach in his 400th game as the Head coach of the Rapid City Rush tonight against the Wichita Thunder.
“It’s hard to believe how quickly the time goes by when you’re doing something you love to do,” said Rush Head coach and GM Joe Ferras on his newest milestone. “I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to coach for a great organization and a great ownership group, and to have the opportunity to coach with a great friend in Mark DeSantis as we coach great young men who are not only very good hockey players, but very good people.”
Among the many milestones in his career, this one comes just a season after he became the fourth coach in CHL history to stand on the bench for 700 games. Over the course of his career, Ferras has coached many players who have eventually become coaches themselves, but one constant since his days as a player with the old WPHL’s New Mexico Scorpions has been his now Associate Coach Mark DeSantis, who served as an assistant with him with the Rush for three seasons before returning for the team’s inaugural ECHL season.
“It’s been a privilege and an honor to work with someone like Joe who works so hard every day,” said long-time friend of Coach Ferras and Rush Associate Coach Mark DeSantis. “To be successful in this business, you must be willing to put so much of yourself into your craft. He puts in 110% every single day in the office, even in the off-seasons. As a former player and now a coach, that’s exactly how I live my days. I learn from how Joe has done his job and how he’s lived his life. Congratulations to a great career Joe, and everything you’ve accomplished over the years.”
In his 12 seasons as a head coach, Ferras has seen nothing but success, coaching only two seasons in which his team finished with under a .500 record. All-time as a coach with the Rush, Ferras is 220-141-38, with an impressive .599 win percentage. His greatest success came in his second year as the bench boss in the Black Hills. Following a 22 win inaugural season, Ferras more than doubled his win total in that second season, winning a franchise-record 43 games and recording a franchise-record 93 points in the standings, helping the Rush clinch their first playoff berth in team history, all while securing the team’s first Northern Conference Regular Season Title. Behind CHL Rookie of the Year, goaltender Danny Battochio, the Rush would ride that success all the way to the Ray Miron President’s Cup Finals, meeting the newest members of the CHL, the Allen Americans. In the final showdown of a wild six-game affair, Scott Wray would score the most important goal in Rush history: the championship-Winning%20Goal in double-overtime, helping the Rush win their first ever Central Hockey League Championship.
“Joe gave me my first opportunity to be a professional goalie. Even before I came to Rapid City, he gave me an opportunity to try out for an AHL team. He hadn’t seen me play yet, so already he had some expectations that I could play at a high level regardless of where my career took me,” said Rush goaltender Danny Battochio, now in his fifth season with the Rush. With regards to the 2009-10 CHL Playoff run, Battochio added: “He had us on board to win that title. He had a great group that season and he kept us level throughout the whole run. Lots of times we faced adversity as a team, but he had the confidence instilled in us to beat any team on any night. With a coach like that, you can just play the game and not worry about anything else, especially in a tense time during that run, under pressure to perform at a high level. He simply brought out the best in everyone.
“He’s become more than just a coach, but a great friend to me,” continued Battochio. “He’s been there to give me a tremendous amount of opportunities in my hockey career, and as a friend he has provided me with guidance and support, always curious and supportive of life away from hockey. As a person, Joe is very approachable, and if you have any concerns he’s there to help you in any way that he can no matter what.”
The success Ferras has seen in the playoffs has been tremendous. In nine trips to the postseason in the CHL, Ferras holds a 40-35-6 all-time record, and a 28-18-5 record with the Rush. Another stable piece of the puzzle in each of his postseason appearances with the Rush is veteran defenseman Riley Weselowski, who has been in a Rush uniform for all but one season of his entire pro career.
“As a player, I would say that the single most important quality you would want in your coach is that he cares. There is no one that cares more about the Rapid City Rush then Joe Ferras does,” said Rush defenseman Riley Weselowski, who has played in almost 300 of Ferras’ 400 games with the Rush. “From the fans, to the front office, to each and every player that has ever worn a Rush uniform, his dedication to the game of hockey and to the Rush organization over the past 400 games cannot be over stated.
“Joe understands the importance of not only building a championship caliber team year after year, but also bringing in individuals that the city can be proud of,” added Weselowski. “His commitment to the community stands out as one thing that sets him apart from other coaches. The countless hours that Joe and his wife Aynsley have sacrificed for the people of Rapid City and their hockey team are something that I, along with the rest of Rush Nation, will be forever grateful for.”
Ever since that magical 2009-10 season, the Rush became one of the most dominant teams in the CHL. In the last five years, the Rush ranked second in wins with 195 victories claimed, just behind the Missouri Mavericks in that time span. The team clinched their fifth consecutive playoff berth behind Ferras last season, who now acts as the General Manager of the Rush organization in addition to his coaching duties.
“We are very proud of all that we as an organization have accomplished since our inception in Rapid City,” concluded Ferras. “Taking the next step as an expansion team in the ECHL speaks even further to how committed the ownership group and the staff of the Rush organization are to the community of Rapid City. The future is very bright for many years of exciting times to come for the most loyal fans in all of minor-pro hockey.”
Congratulations on your 400th Rush game Coach Ferras, and here’s to many more to come!
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