Where We Left Off: Thunderstruck – Twelve players from the Rapid City Rush inked themselves on the scoresheet led by the four-point night of Mikhail Stefanovich, who notched his second hat-trick of the season, in a 7-2 thrashing of the Wichita Thunder on Tuesday night. Wichita earned the first of the nine total scoring entries between both clubs in the early stages of the contest. With 3:47 gone by in the first period, Michael Neal encroached on the Rush net and snuck the puck by Rush rookie netminder, Marek Langhamer, and put the Thunder up 1-0 (Mason Baptista and Dean Chelios recorded the assists). It would be the only offense of the game for just over two full periods of play for the Thunder, who saw the Rush even the score just over the midway point of the first. With 7:02 left on the clock, Cody Ferriero took a loose puck on the Thunder blue line and played catch with his captain, Winston Day Chief, as they crept closer to the Wichita net and Dave Shawntz. Day Chief deferred to Ferriero at the last moment, and he zipped a one-timer by Shawntz to lock the game at 1-1 (Day Chief and Kale Kerbashian received the assists). It would appear after 20 minutes that both teams would be in for a close fight, but the Rush blew the ceiling off of Premier Home Mortgage Ice in Rushmore Plaza Civic Center with four goals in the middle stanza in the span of 9:57 of game time. The first ignition of the goal lamp came at the 2:02 mark of the second period, as in the midst of the first Rush power play of the game, Mikhail Stefanovich ripped a wrist shot from the near wall of the attacking zone through traffic in front of the Wichita net, past Shawntz, and off the post and in, giving the Rush a 2-1 lead (Michael Young and Cody Ferriero received the assists-Ferriero’s second point of the game). Stefanovich followed with his second goal of the contest at the 8:06 mark of the frame as he took a neutral zone pass from Destry Straight and skated down an open lane on a breakaway, beating Shawntz to increase the Rush lead to 3-1 (Straight and Brett Kostolansky received the assists). Exactly 1:19 later, on the final Rush power play of the game, Stefanovich sent a shot off of Shawntz and in his crease for Day Chief to clean up. The tuck, the second point of the game for Day Chief at this juncture in the game, afforded the Rush a 4-1 lead (Stefanovich recorded his third point of the game with his assist, while Kerbashian earned his second assist of the night). Following the goal, Shawntz was replaced by Grant Rollheiser in the Wichita net, and he conceded Spencer Pommells’ sixth goal of the year just two and a half minutes removed from the previous tally to give the Rush a 5-1 lead after two periods (Jimmy Bonneau and Zach Cohen received the assists). The Thunder came back early in the third to cut the deficit to three on Dean Chelios’ goal with 4:22 gone by in the third period, bringing the count to 5-2 on his poke by Langhamer (Mason Baptista earned his second assist, while Michael Neal recorded his second point of the game with his first helper). With 6:45 to go in the game, Stefanovich sent the crowd into a frenzy as he completed his second hat-trick of the season three weeks apart with his goal on Rollheiser that afforded the Rush a 6-2 advantage (Straight earned his second assist of the affair, while Daniel Barczuk added his first on the goal). For good measure, Winston Day Chief added a second tally and third point of the game with 92 seconds left in the contest, banking a shot off of the inside of Rollheiser’s leg and in to bring the score to its eventual final of 7-2 (Taylor Doherty garnered an assist, while Bonneau earned his second of the game with the secondary).
Twice as Nice – Mikhail Stefanovich made his offensive presence felt again as he scored his second hat-trick of the season in the thrashing of Wichita that has been previously discussed above. The Minsk, Belarus native accomplished his second trifecta exactly 7 games apart (18 days), becoming the fastest player in Rush history to record two hat-tricks in a season, breaking the mark of the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, Jesse Schultz (10 games apart, 22 days). Stefanovich became the 15th player in Rush history to score a hat-trick, and now the fourth of those gentlemen to do so more than once. He is responsible for the 19th and 20th hat-tricks in Rush history.
I’ll Have a Dozen – The 12 players that recorded themselves on the scoresheet against Wichita on Tuesday is the highest-such volume of players to record a point in a single game this season. It breaks the previous high of 10 that was set in a 4-3 overtime win on November 21st against the Utah Grizzlies.
Half and Half – Through 20 games this season, one thing is certainly clear: things have dramatically changed. The first 10 games compared to the last 10 games are so different in so many ways for the better, and shows the success that this Rush club is capable of seeing by the end of Game 72. In the first 10 games, the Rush posted a 4-5-1 record, and a sub-10% power play (9.7%), and had a PK of 77.3%, both of which ranked in the bottom-three spots in the ECHL. In the last 10 games, the Rush are 7-2-1, boast a 25% power play, and a dominating penalty-kill that sports a 94.7% killing rate. The top three scorers from the first half of the season played (Winston Day Chief, Dan O’Donoghue, Zach Cohen) are entirely different compared to the last 10 games (Mikhail Stefanovich, Cody Ferriero, Destry Straight).
We’ve Got a Pair – The defense pair of Taylor Doherty and Brett Kostolansky had a field day on Tuesday, putting together one of the best statistical performances by a duo this season. The fifth and third-year pros, respectively, combined for 2 assists along with a whopping +9 together on the ice.
Kerby’s Dreamland – Rush forward Kale Kerbashian returned to the fray two weeks ago from his most recent stint on the IR, and has contributed on a regular basis heading into his milestone game tonight. With his two helpers on Tuesday night, Kerbashian now has 3 Pts (G, 2 Ast) in his last three contests, putting him 2 assists shy of 100 for his pro career. Additionally, the fifth-year pro from Thunder Bay, Ontario will play in his 200th game tonight. In his time in the Black Hills, the two-time CHL champion has racked up 13 goals and 26 assists for 39 points in 35 games, and started his tenure with the Rush on a 9-game point streak, while finishing with a team-high +24 at the end of the regular season.
We Meet Again… - For the first time since April 29th, the Rush and Mallards will do battle. Their last meeting happened to be Game 7 of the opening round in the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs last season, where the Rush won by a 2-1 count in what was an instant classic with an insane finish. Last season, the Rush went 5-5-0-3 against the Mallards in an evenly matched 13-game series.
I HAVE THE POWER! – Much similarly to Prince Adam in the 1983 cartoon classic, the Rush certainly had the power last game as they made quick work of their man-advantage opportunities. Mikhail Stefanovich hit pay-dirt 17 seconds into the first Rush power play, followed by his captain Winston Day Chief, capitalizing with just 38 seconds gone by on the second and final Rush power play of the night. The 2/2 performance is the first of the season in which the Rush have sported a 100% conversion rate on the power play. The Rush are 6-2-0 when scoring a power play goal, and undefeated when scoring 2 or more in a game.
CRUNCHING NUMBERS: vs the Mallards – With that epic series still in our minds, let’s recap last season’s battle between the Mallards and the Rush by virtue of numerals:
- 16 – the number of players from both sides of the puck making their return to the fray. The Rush have 10 returning players from last year’s playoff series (Winston Day Chief, Jonathan Narbonne, Brett Kostolansky, Spencer Pommells, Cody Ferriero, Kale Kerbashian, Daniel Barczuk, Michael Young, Scott Brannon, and Danny Battochio) to Quad City’s 6 (Mike Monfredo, Jake Baker, Darren McMillan, Austin Coldwell, Matt Neal, and Anthony Collins)
- 28 – the number of total goals scored in the playoff series between both clubs. This set an ECHL record for lowest goal total in a full seven-game playoff series. Out of the seven games, all but one was decided by a lone goal.
- 87.6 – the combined penalty-kill of both teams in both the regular season and playoffs. Individually, Quad City led the 20-game affair with a 90.4% PK, while the Rush clocked in with an 84.5% penalty-killing clip.