(RAPID CITY, SD) – Utah broke a 1-1 deadlock in the second and didn’t look back, as the Rapid City Rush fell to the Utah Grizzlies by a 5-1 score on Saturday night. The game ended a stretch of five games against the Grizzlies in which the Rush went 2-2-1.
For a second time in the three-game Rapid City portion of the set, Utah jumped on the board first. The puck was turned over on the Rush blue line and led Brad Navin and Cam Reid on a two-on-one in the Rush zone. Navin fired a shot that was originally stopped by Rush net-minder Austin Lotz, but Reid squeaked the rebound by Lotz to give Utah a 1-0 lead with 11:51 gone by in the game (Navin notched the lone assist). The Rush tied it up moments later, capitalizing on special teams for a second straight night. Just 7 seconds into the first Rush power play of the night, Josh MacDonald centered the puck for Ryan Misiak, and he tapped it by Utah goaltender Ryan Faragher to square the game at 1-1 with 4:35 left in the first (MacDonald and Justin Hache assisted). With the assist on Misiak’s goal, MacDonald earned a career high for points in a season with his 32nd of the year (16g-16ast).
Utah struck back in the early portion of the second to retake the lead. With 96 seconds gone by in the second, Mike Pelech found Mathieu Aubin from the far corner, and Aubin zipped a shot from the far face-off circle to the far post of Austin Lotz, bringing Utah back on top at 2-1 (Pelech garnered the only assist).
Utah ran away with it in the third period, and received help from a familiar source in the rivalry with the Rush. Ralph Cuddemi earned his first of two back-to-back strikes when Utah pressured hard in the Rush zone to start the period. The puck was worked around and came to Cuddemi in the near faceoff circle, and he fired by a diving Lotz to give the Grizzlies a 3-1 lead just 35 seconds into the third (Cam Reid notched his second point with an assist, while Kenton Helgesen earned his first). Cuddemi attacked again when, on Utah’s third and final power play of the game, he recovered a rebound off of a Tim Daly point shot on the near side of the net and sent it by Lotz to expand Utah’s lead to 4-1 with 11:51 left in the game (Daly and Cam Reid assisted, the latter earning his third point and second helper). Jon Puskar added the final goal when he knocked a rebound by Lotz in the slot to bring the game to its final score of 5-1 (Brad Navin earned the lone assist, his second of the game).
Austin Lotz fell in his return to the Rush, stopping 20 of 25 shots in the effort (2-3-2 total, 0-3-2 with the Rush).
The Rush now switch gears to the Colorado Eagles with a “three-in-three” series next weekend. Game 1 is set for Friday at the Budweiser Event Center at 7:05 p.m. MST on January 20th. The series then shifts to the Black Hills for “Slap Shot Night” on Saturday, January 21st at 7:05 p.m. MST at Premier Home Mortgage Ice in Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. “Pucks and Paws” concludes the weekend in Rapid City with a 3 p.m. MST showdown to end the series. Call 716-7825 for your tickets now!