(RAPID CITY, SD) – Ryan Walters tied the game early against his former club in the first period, but the Utah Grizzlies gained enough separation to take the win and sweep against the Rapid City Rush with a 4-2 win on Saturday night.
For a third straight contest, Utah lit the scoreboard up first. With 3:31 gone by in the game, Luke Siemens withstood a flurry of chances in front of the Rush net, but C.J. Eick picked up the rebound and slipped it by Siemens to give Utah a 1-0 lead (Jon Puskar had the lone assist). The Rush, also for a third straight night, tied the game up past the midway point of the period. With 7:02 left in the first, Geoff Fortman led an odd-man rush into the Grizzlies zone and sparked a tic-tac-toe passing play. He dropped back to Terrence Wallin, who advanced the puck to Ryan Walters, who subsequently fired a rocket off of the glove of Utah goaltender, Kevin Boyle, and in to tie the game at 1-1 (Fortman and Wallin earned the assists). Utah would eventually take the lead into the intermission, and did so within the last three minutes of the frame. After Utah’s first power play of the game expired, Erik Bradford jumped on a loose puck in the Rush crease and squeaked it by Siemens to push the Grizzlies to a 2-1 advantage with 2:47 left in the first (Jon Puskar earned his second assist, while Colin Martin earned his first on the goal).
Utah jumped ahead by two in the second period within the first five minutes of the frame. On their second power play of the game, Zac Larraza buried a Colin Martin pass from the far faceoff circle of the Rush zone over the shoulder of Siemens, giving Utah a 3-1 lead with 4:31 gone by in the second (Martin earned his second assist, while Erik Bradford earned his first and subsequently his second point). The Rush battled back and cut the deficit to one goal moments later, but that was as close as the team would come for the rest of regulation. With 5:51 left in the shot, Christian Horn fired a sharp-angle shot that was originally stopped by Boyle, but Hunter Fejes slid the rebound behind him and in to bring the deficit to 3-2 heading into the third period (Horn had the lone assist).
Utah held the fort down in the final period and earned an empty-net goal from Colin Martin to seal things up with 52 seconds remaining, eventually giving the Grizzlies a 4-2 win and a sweep over the Rush in this week’s series.
Luke Siemens, starting for the fourth time in the last five games, suffered the loss while stopping 21 of 24 shots faced.
The Rush now set their sights to their archrivals, the Colorado Eagles, for a pair of games this weekend to close out the regular season. Puck drop on both Friday, April 7th, and Saturday, April 8th, is slated for 7:05 p.m. MST at Premier Home Mortgage Ice in Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.