(RAPID CITY, SD) – Shaquille Merasty provided the game-winning goal on the power play, a pair of assists, and a fighting major for a “Gordie Howe Hat-Trick” and 3-points, powering the Rapid City Rush to a 4-2 win on Friday night against the Fort Wayne Komets. The win ended the Komets three-game win streak, and earned the Rush a split of the first two games in this three-game series.
Fort Wayne started off the scoring entries in this second game in the series, and commanded early with a 2-0 lead. Just 30 seconds into their first power play of the game, a turnover on the Rush blue line led to an opportunity in close range for the Komets leading scorer, Justin Hodgman. With 6:44 gone by in the game, Hodgman deked around Rush net-minder Michael Bitzer, and tucked the puck in to give the Komets an early 1-0 lead (Shawn Szydlowski and Marc-Olivier Roy assisted). Moments later, the Rush were on their first power play of the contest, but a turnover on a breakout in neutral ice provded the Komets with their third shorthanded goal in the last two games against the Rush. With 9:01 gone by in the first, Binkley intercepted a neutral zone pass and went down uncontested into the Rush zone, finishing with a shot by Bitzer to make it a 2-0 Komets lead (the goal was unassisted). On the same power play, however, the Rush battled back and got on the board. Exactly 26 seconds later, Josh Elmes took a pass from Riley Weselowski on the blue line and rifled a shot by Komets goalie Kyle Hayton to cut the deficit to 2-1 with 10:33 left in the first (Weselowski and Adam Marsh assisted). The Rush drew the game level with 3:54 remaining in the frame when Darby Llewellyn finished a hard-working play with Shaquille Merasty and Michael Turner around the Komets net, squaring the game at 2-2 with his second of the season (Merasty and Turner assisted).
After the Rush weathered the storm on the penalty-kill in the second period, both teams entered the third still deadlocked at 2-2. Special teams reared its head again in the third period, and it provided the Rush with a game-winning tally. With 13:13 left in the game, a Josh Elmes blue line shot was deflected by Merasty in the slot by Hayton, giving the Rush a 3-2 lead (Elmes had the lone assist). Cedric Montminy stuck the dagger into the empty net with 46.4 seconds remaining in the game as Fort Wayne tried to fight for a tying goal, sealing the win for the Rush at 4-2.
Michael Bitzer earned his third win of the season, stopping 16 of 18 shots on goal (3-1-0-1).
Both teams fight in the rubber match tomorrow night on Saturday, November 10th, which serves as our annual “Military Appreciation Night” game. Puck drop slated for 7:05 p.m. at Premier Home Mortgage Ice in Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.