(WINDSOR, CO) – Evan Janssen’s 2 goals speared a 3-goal Rapid City Rush comeback, capped off by Dylan Labbe’s winner 1:48 in overtime, giving the Rush a 4-3 win over the defending champion Colorado Eagles on Friday night. The win gives the Rush three consecutive victories, and four in their last five games.
After 36:26 of scoreless hockey between the rivals, Colorado broke the deadlocked zeroes on the board and earned a 1-0 lead heading into the locker room. With 3:34 left in the second, both the Eagles and Rush were skating in four-on-four hockey, and a turnover in the Rush zone came to Matt Register of the defending champs. Register found former NHLer Drayson Bowman on the backdoor, and Bowman sent a shot over the large frame of new Rush net-minder Adam Vay to afford Colorado its 1-0 lead heading into the third period (Register had the only assist).
It was a high-flying roller coaster third period for both teams, and eventually resulted in free hockey for the sell-out crowd at the Budweiser Events Center. Drayson Bowman controversially knocked in his second tally of the game with 2:44 gone by in the third period. With the Rush on their final power play of the game, the puck was turned over on the attacking blue line, springing Jake Marchment down the ice on a breakaway. His initial shot was stopped by Vay, but the puck was picked up by Bowman for his second on the rebound. The argument was made that Marchment impeded Vay from making the save, but goaltender interference wasn’t called, and Colorado’s lead stood at 2-0. Michael Joly made it 3-0 Colorado with his ECHL-leading 11th goal of the season, scoring for an eighth straight game on a centering pass in front of Vay with 12:51 left in the game (Ryan Harrison had the lone assist).
The Rush engineered a comeback with three goals scored in the span of 4:48, starting with Evan Janssen’s first goal in a Rush uniform. With 7:54 left in the game, Janssen batted in a loose puck off of a shot from the blue line, sliding the rebound by Eagles goaltender Lukas Hafner to cut the Eagles lead to 3-1 (Matt Caito and Jimmy DeVito assisted). Off of an offensive zone faceoff with 5:15 remaining, Peter Sivak took a shot from the near wall of the Eagles zone that was deflected by Hafner and tapped in by Pavel Jenys. Jenys’ first Rush goal brought the Rush within striking distance, down 3-2 to the archrivals (Sivak and Kenton Miller assisted the goal). Janssen completed the comeback with his second goal, the final one of regulation, when he batted in a loose puck again by a sprawled out Hafner, squaring the game at 3-3 with 3:06 left in the game (DeVito earned the only assist).
The Rush played in their second overtime game in the last three contests, but this one wouldn’t require a shootout to determine a winner. With 1:48 gone by in the extra session, Ian Brady carried the puck in the Eagles zone, and after a half lap around was double-teamed in the far corner. Brady squeaked the puck to Dante Salituro, who found Labbe off of his blue line in the near faceoff circle. Labbe faked the initial shot, handled around his defender, and fired top-shelf over Hafner for the win with his first goal in a Rush uniform, completing the comeback with a 4-3 victory.
Adam Vay, making his Rush debut, earned the win with 22 saves on 25 shots faced in 61:48 of action (1-0-0).
Both teams will rematch tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. at Premier Home Mortgage Ice in Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. The Rush will honor our proud nation’s military with their annual “Military Appreciation Night” tomorrow night, commemorating the occasion with specialty jerseys and helmets, as well as a swearing-in ceremony and other special happenings to thank our military members, past and present, for allowing us to enjoy professional hockey and daily life in safety and freedom.