(RAPID CITY, SD) – A heavily depleted Rapid City Rush club gave the defending champion Colorado Eagles a run for their money on Saturday night, falling by an eventual 7-4 final score.
Colorado opened the scoring entries, but it was the Rush that would carry the lead after 20 minutes of play. With 3:10 gone by in regulation, Ryan Harrison buried a Gage Ausmus centering pass by Rush net-minder Adam Vay to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead, and also trigger a shower of teddy bears for the Eagles annual Teddy Bear Toss (Ausmus had the lone assist). The Rush countered to tie the game at 11:13 of the frame when Andrew Miller cleanly won a faceoff at the blocker side of Eagles goaltender Lukas Hafner to Pavel Jenys. Jenys unloaded with a bomb that whizzed by Hafner, squaring the game at 1-1 (Miller had the lone assist). Rush special teams finished the period on a high note when Alex Guptill pocketed a loose puck on the back door of the Eagles net on the second Rush power play of the night, giving his team a 2-1 lead with 27.6 seconds remaining in the first (Josh Elmes and Jimmy DeVito assisted).
Colorado took over at around the halfway point of the second period, scoring twice in 33 seconds to take a 3-2 lead. Collin Bowman tied the game for Colorado with a power play goal from the blue line through a screened Vay at 11:18 of the second to square things up at 2-2 (Joey Ratelle notched the lone assist). Emil Romig pushed the defending champions ahead over a half a minute later when he banked a shot from behind the goal line off of Vay and in, making it 3-2 with 8:09 left in the second (Nolan DeJong earned the only helper). Jake Marto finished the stretch of three unanswered goals with 4:49 left in the second period, finishing over all three lines on an odd-man rush down the ice with a wrist shot that beat Vay’s glove to make it 4-2 Colorado (Matt Garbowsky and Drayson Bowman assisted the goal). The Rush countered with a second power play goal in the final minutes of the second to finish 40 minutes of play down by a goal. With 3:27 left in the second, Darian Dziurzynski powered from behind the net with a wrap-around opportunity that came to Kenton Miller. Miller slammed the rebound by Hafner to bring the Rush deficit to 4-3 heading into the third (Dziurzynski and Elmes assisted).
Colorado struck within the first minute of the third to re-establish their two-goal advantage. Just 42 seconds into the third, Drayson Bowman appeared to play the puck in the offside position, but the linesmen somehow deemed he was onside. Bowman found Michael Joly cross-ice in the Rush zone, and Joly finished with a shot off of Vay to give the Eagles a 5-3 lead (Bowman had the only assist). Under two minutes later, Alex Guptill scored a second off of a rebound from a Jimmy DeVito shot to once again bring the Rush within striking distance, down 5-4 with 17:26 left in the game (DeVito and Dante Salituro assisted). The game stayed within one for the majority of the period, but Colorado broke through with another strike, this time from Ben Storm on a centering feed from Jake Marchment to give Colorado a 6-4 lead with 4:22 left in regulation (Marchment and Gabriel Verpaelst assisted). Drayson Bowman sealed the victory for Colorado with 1:25 left in the game, firing into an empty four-by-six to bring the game to its 7-4 final tally (Matt Register got the only assist).
Adam Vay stopped 29 of 35 shots faced in the loss in 59:44 of action (3-5-0).
The road trip continues with a tilt on Wednesday, December 13th, against the Idaho Steelheads. Puck drop at CenturyLink Arena is slated for 7:10 p.m. MST.