(WEST VALLEY CITY, UT) – Nick Miglio and Josh MacDonald gave the Rapid City Rush an early lead, but the Utah Grizzlies came back in some bizarre circumstances to claim a 3-2 win on Saturday night.
Both teams skated to a scoreless draw in the first, despite 5 combined power plays and a controversial denial of a Rush goal. Ryan Walters thought he scored shorthanded within the last five minutes of the first period when he kicked the puck up to his stick and into the Utah net, but the officials deemed the puck was kicked in and therefore we remained scoreless after one period.
The Rush jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead with goals that DID count. Starting the scoring entries was Nick Miglio, who worked a back-hander on a two-on-one rush with Ryan Walters by Utah goaltender Ryan McKay to give the Rush a 1-0 lead 2:53 into the second (Josh MacDonald and net-minder Adam Morrison assisted). MacDonald doubled the lead to 2-0 moments later when he took a Garrett Haar pass, split right through the defense, and finished top shelf over McKay with 5:17 played in the second (Haar earned the lone assist). Utah did strike late in the second to bring themselves within striking distance with Erik Higby deflected a Johnny McInnis shot by Adam Morrison to make it a 2-1 game heading into the final period (McInnis and Erik Bradford notched the assists).
Utah started off the third period of the contest on a power play despite starting an altercation that ended the second period of play. They capitalized on the man-advantage when Mathieu Aubin sent a slap shot from the far circle over Morrison to tie the game at 2-2 with 18:53 left in the game (Tim Daly and Taylor Richart assisted). In the middle of the period, Utah goaltender took a Josh MacDonald slapshot in the face and it cut him, forcing him to retire from the game for almost 10 minutes of game time. Emergency Back Up Goaltender Jamie Stevens came in and stopped 7 shots in relief, all while Utah delayed the game to buy time for McKay to recover. When McKay came back, he did so to a penalty-filled final five minutes, and when even-strength hockey resumed, the Grizzlies notched the last goal. With 40 seconds left in the game, Erik Higby notched his second goal of the game when he fired a rebound by Morrison, pushing Utah to a 3-2 advantage (Mike Banwell and Erik Bradford assisted). The Rush tried to gain leverage for an extra-attacker scenario, but couldn’t get their last effort off, resulting in the Utah win.
Adam Morrison stopped 29 shots on 32 faced in receiving his second regulation loss of the season (4-2-2).
The Rush travel to Idaho for the final leg of their five-game road trip against the Steelheads next Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Puck drops for those matchups are slated at 7:10 p.m. MST.