(WINDSOR, CO) – Kenton Miller brought the Rapid City Rush within striking distance with his 200th career point on a third period power play goal, but the Colorado Eagles weathered a surge from their archrivals, ending with a 5-4 win in the first game of the 3rd annual Crystal Cup rivalry.
Colorado kicked off scoring in what ended up being a period filled with 7 ignitions of the goal lamp. Teigan Zahn notched the first tally for the defending champs when he trailed on a rush down the ice with his Eagles teammates. Zahn scored 34 seconds on a shot from the slot by Rush net-minder, Steve Michalek, to give Colorado a 1-0 lead (Jake Marchment and Drayson Bowman assisted). The Rush countered to tie things up 2:45 into the game when Dante Salituro, in his Rush debut, deflected a Riley Weselowski shot by Eagles goalie Sam Brittain, squaring the game at 1-1 (Weselowski earned the lone assist). Colorado then took over with back-to-back power play goals, starting off with Michael Joly on the Eagles’ first power play of the night. With 13:46 left in the frame, Michael Joly took a centering pass from J.C. Beaudin and sent a snapshot by Michalek to put Colorado back on top with a 2-1 lead (Beaudin and Jake Marto notched the helpers). Matt Register made it 3-1 for the defending champs with a blast from the blue line on the second Eagles power play with 10:43 remaining in the frame (Beaudin and Mychan assisted). Marcus Ortiz then brought the Rush within one when Alex Guptill went down the ice with him on a break into the Eagles zone. Guptill handed off to a trailing Ortiz, who went top-corner with a wrist shot to bring the deficit to 3-2 with 8:04 to play in the first (Guptill had the only assist). Colorado re-established their 2-goal advantage during the first Rush power play of the game within the final two minutes of the first. Joey Ratelle picked up a turnover on the Rush blue line and zipped a shot by Michalek, lifting the Eagles to a 4-2 lead with 1:36 left in the period (the goal was unassisted). Anthony Collins responded for the Rush exactly 20 seconds later when he deflected a rebound by Brittain point-blank in front of his net, ending a high-flying first period with the Rush trailing 4-3 (Matt Caito and Michael Young earned the helpers).
The pace of the game took a major downshift, with only one goal coming in the middle frame. In the midst of four-on-four hockey, Brady Shaw found Shawn St-Amant coming into the Rush zone, and St-Amant fired a shot from the far faceoff circle in the Rush zone by Michalek to give Colorado a 5-3 lead with 4:43 gone by in the second (Shaw and Matt Register assisted).
The Rush came within striking distance on their only power play goal of the game, which marked a career milestone for the goal-scorer. With 8:26 left in the game, Kenton Miller pocketed an Ian Brady rebound off of a second shot from the blue line, bringing the Rush within striking distance with his 200th career point and cutting the Rush deficit to 5-4 (Brady earned the lone assist). The Rush rode their momentum to a feverish finish, pulling Michalek for an extra-attacker with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Despite a flurry of chances, the Rush fell to the archrivals by a 5-4 score.
Steve Michalek stopped 23 of 28 shots in the defeat, his season debut with the Rush (0-1-0).
The Rush and Eagles will rematch tomorrow night in Rapid City to conclude their home-and-home series. Puck drop is slated for 7:05 p.m. at Premier Home Mortgage Ice in Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.