(RAPID CITY, SD) – Winston Day Chief had three assists, Cody Ferriero and Taylor Doherty added two, and Daniel Barczuk scored in his 200th game as a professional hockey player, but Mikhail Stefanovich stole the show with his hat-trick in just his second game of the year as the Rapid City Rush blew by the Utah Grizzlies by a 5-1 score on Friday night.
For a third consecutive game, the Rush opened scoring entries and did so early once again. Five minutes and nine seconds into the game, Mikhail Stefanovich busted into the Utah zone and beat Utah’s rookie goaltender, Taran Kozun, making his professional debut, to put the Rush up 1-0 (Winston Day Chief and Taylor Doherty recorded the assists). Moments later, however, Day Chief committed back-to-back penalties, and Utah struck back on the second of the Rush captain’s penalties. At the 12:22 mark of the first, Connor Hardowa sent a wrist shot through traffic by Rush net-minder Danny Battochio to tie the game at 1-1 (Shayne Taker and Jon Puskar received assists). Exactly 1:03 later, the Rush regained the lead and would not relinquish it for the remainder of regulation. On a chip from Scott Brannon, Daniel Barczuk, playing in his 200th professional game, sniped a wrist shot past Kozun to re-establish the Rush lead to 2-1 with 6:35 left in the first (Brannon received the lone assist).
After the Rush braved a Utah power play near the midpoint of the second, they took over for the final five minutes. On the second and final Rush power play of the game, Zach Cohen tipped a Garrett Clarke wrister past Kozun to bring the Rush to a 3-1 lead with 4:17 left in the second (Clarke recorded an assist, while Doherty added his second of the night). Stefanovich sent Rushmore Plaza Civic Center abuzz with his second goal of the night, sending a blistering shot by Kozun on the far side of the Utah zone with 45 seconds and change remaining in the middle frame to give the Rush a 4-1 lead heading into the third (Cody Ferriero recorded an assist, while Day Chief added his second helper of the evening).
The lone goal in the final frame triggered a shower of hats, and ended the scoring entries for the night. With 4:11 to go in regulation, Stefanovich completed his hat-trick, sending one last shot by Kozun from the slot to bring the game to its final score of 5-1 (Day Chief earned his third assist of the game, while Ferriero added his second).
Danny Battochio stopped 25 of 26 shots, earning the win in his second start against Utah (5-2-1).
The series of five-consecutive games between the Utah Grizzlies and Rapid City Rush comes to a close tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. MST at Premier Home Mortgage Ice in Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
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